- (Photograph: Twitter/Gracie Brothers)
Tim Tebow may have received criticism for his passing ability while starting for the Denver Broncos last season, but the New York Jets backup quarterback has been making changes to prepare for the upcoming season, including undergoing mixed martial arts training.
Tebow, 24, is looking to fill in the blanks of the Jets' the ground-and-pound offense and has put on weight in the offseason to help him. However many were surprised to learn that Tebow has also recently been training under the Gracie family, who are known for founding Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Over the past week, Tebow has been training at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, Calif. The Christian NFL player was included in a photograph with the academy's instructors Rener Gracie and Ralek Gracie.
The Gracie brothers tweeted about Tebow's training, calling him a "natural."
"Your athleticism/intelligence makes teaching Jiu Jitsu even easier," Ryron Gracie tweeted Tebow on Independence Day. " Stay alert!"
The Gracie brothers asked their followers to include Tebow in their family.
"Everyone please give a warm welcome to the newest member of the Gracie family: Tim Tebow," the brothers tweeted.
Fans of the football player took to Twitter to offer mixed reactions after news broke that he was trying his hand at mixed martial arts.
"QB's shouldn't be doing that workout," one football fan noted.
However, others were excited for the possibility to see what Tebow has learned.
"I can't wait for the next season of Tebow Time," a fan of the former Heisman trophy winner wrote. "Tebow in MMA would be just Epic."
Although both NFL and MMA fans have taken interest in Tebow's training, the QB is not the first professional football player to undergo this type of cross training. Lorenzo LaVonne Neal, retired NFL fullback, once trained with retired UFC fighter Chuck Lidell to prepare for his game.
Neal claimed that it helped his balance and body control on the football field, according to ESPN reports.
Jared Allen, defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, once spoke about training at Arizona Combat Sports in the offseason. In a 1997 ESPN report, Allen spoke about how NFL players could benefit from fighters' training.
"The cardio that fighters go through is just intense. This offseason I didn't do any running. I did all my intense cardio at Arizona Combat Sports," Allen revealed. "When I went off to minicamp in the spring, we were running wind sprints one day and I had more gas than I knew what to do with. The cardio level of these fighters is so intense because their life depends on them not being tired."
While it remains to be seen how Tebow will be impacted by the MMA training he has undergone recently, the NFL player admitted that he has been hard at work to improve his game.
"'I feel that I'm just training hard,'' Tebow said in a Yahoo! report last month. ''I'm trying to be in shape, be strong enough to do anything, but also fast enough to run around a little bit as well.''