Broncos vets are ready for first look at Tebow, the Mile-High Messiah
There's plenty of hazing material on Tim Tebow one month into his NFL career
As demonstrated at recent Nike event, Tebow attracts attention anywhere he goes
No matter how nice Tebow is, on-field performance will determine his legacy
Tim Tebow will make a first impression this week. The Denver Broncos' first organized team activity, combining veterans and rookies, is Tebow's first chance to meet his non-rookie teammates. Like Kyle Orton, whose job he may take. And Brady Quinn -- whom he met once at the ESPYs -- another member of the Broncos three-headed quarterback competition.
And it's a chance for the Denver veterans to get their first look at the phenomenon that is Tebow.
If they want to engage in any early bird rookie hazing, there's plenty of material, just 25 days into Tebow's NFL career.
Tebow led the NFL in jersey sales last month, the best-selling rookie jersey since the NFL started keeping track of such a statistic.
Tebow's agent said he has already turned down seven-figure endorsement opportunities.
The Broncos traded three lower picks to get back into the first round and draft Tebow, coveting the player many analysts predict will be an NFL bust.
A fan survey came up with the nickname "The Mile-High Messiah" for Tebow.
A Denver columnist has described coach Josh McDaniels' feelings for Tebow as a "man crush."
Another Denver columnist said the team needs to trade Orton ASAP, calling the incumbent an immobile temp who lacks leadership.
So, Kyle, Brady, other vets -- meet your new pal, Tim.
"I'm looking forward to meeting all the guys," Tebow said Saturday, in his familiar golly-gee-whillikers delivery.
Tebow was in Oakland -- home of what is now his professional rival -- over the weekend to participate in Nike's SPARQ rating combine. Tebow has been involved in the training system -- measuring Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness -- since he was a high school junior and posted a high score.
There were other athletes at the event at little Laney College -- Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who joked that he wanted Tebow to toss him some footballs so he could get a preview of his throwing motion in advance of the Raiders-Broncos 2010 matchups.
But Tebow was the star. The high school players flocked behind him. The young girls posed for photos.
"He attracts people wherever he goes," said his agent Jimmy Sexton who kept an eye on his new client throughout the day.
Tebow has signed contracts with Nike and EA Sports, but the rookie is weighing his options with other companies. Sexton said Tebow will be selective, looking for relationships with companies that adhere to his values.
"We want to pick the right partners," Sexton said.
That's the Tebow phenomenon -- the wholesome, religious, squeaky-clean package. It's why companies are attracted to him, why people want his jersey. Who wants to walk around in a Ben Roethlisberger or a Michael Vick jersey these days? Even Tiger Woods isn't a safe endorsement.
"It's very humbling that people want to wear my jersey," Tebow said. "It's a blessing that people want to support me."
His answer -- all about humility and blessings -- is what fuels the phenomenon.
"It's a lot bigger than football," Sexton said. "So many people look to this guy as the one who's going to be a great player and a great role model. People are dying for something that's a little bit wholesome."
That's a big burden to put on a 22-year-old, one who just became a millionaire and whose world is about to abruptly change.
"He's not going to disappoint people," Sexton said confidently.
How the Tebow phenomenon plays in the NFL will depend on his on-field success -- no one wants to rock the jersey of a bust, no matter how nice a guy he is.
But Team Tebow already has achieved a healthy dose of vindication. Projected to go as low as the fourth round in January, Tebow listened to the critics, worked with a team of coaches, changed his throwing motion and became a first-round pick. He's going into a good situation for a rookie quarterback: his head coach is also running the offense and has his own reputation invested in Tebow's success. And, oh yeah, John Elway has already texted him, wishing him good luck.
Starting at Monday's OTA, which continues through Wednesday, Tebow is in Denver to stay. He'll look for a place to live. He'll meet the guys. He'll go to work.
"I don't know what to expect," he said, beaming. "I'm jacked about it. I can't wait to get there and learn and be a sponge and soak in everything."
A little while later, he left the small field in Oakland in a black stretch limo, escorted by a black, tinted-window Suburban. If you didn't know better, you'd have thought it was the POTUS inside. Instead it was MHM -- the Mile-High Messiah.
Just more fodder for the Broncos veterans.
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