Few athletes are as polarizing as Tim Tebow. In the same breath as LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Yasiel Puig for whatever may happen on or off the court, fairway or field, you can’t mention anything Tebow in public without some sort of debate or controversy. There are always opinions to be had when it comes to him.
Whether recalling the “Tebow Mania” that took over the nation before Twitter was anywhere near its prime, his brief NFL career was full of headlines and pop stardom with his public image branching into a million directions.
Tebow is a devout Christian and few people in any line of work are as provocative about their faith as he is. He’s just as popular as he is despised by many, whether it be for his strong personal opinions, his dashing looks, his incredibly successful career at Florida or his place in society. Yes, people debate that.
In 2007, the Florida Gators Quarterback became the first underclassmen in the Florida’s esteemed football history to win the coveted Heisman trophy. The 20-year old set the NCAA record for passing and rushing touchdowns with 32 and 20 respectively. No player had ever finished with a 20-20 season.
Despite his legendary college career, there were always doubts surrounding Tebow in making the jump to the National Football League. Tebow had tool after tool but was betrayed by the most important one a quarterback needs, the arm. Quarterbacks have to throw after all.
Tebow defied the critics but not the odds as a people’s choice—more specifically a Denver Broncos’ choice—in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Taken 25th overall, he appeared in nine games and started three in his first season with underwhelming results.
In year two he started 11 of the Broncos 16 regular season games and won a playoff matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, capped off by an 80-yard game winning touchdown pass. Tebow came up with the big, game-winning play but his stat line was more indicative of the player he was: 10-for-21 passing for a very mild 47.6 percent and threw two touchdowns to no interceptions. He rushed for an impressive 50 yards and a touchdown on ten carries.
Obviously there was a lot to like in this “breakout” performance, but Tebow was displaced at Quarterback prior to the 2012 season. If you’re going to be replaced, let it be to a Hall of Famer, and Tebow was. Peyton Manning was signed and Tebow was traded to the New York Jets in a journalist’s dream and what had the makings of a locker room nightmare.
Tebow’s first season with the Jets was his last in the NFL. He didn’t play quarterback, according to football reference, and was deployed at full back and tight end. He finished the season with one more tackle than touchdown.
At 25, the former blue chip prospect was without a team. He joined ESPN in 2013 and his perfect, gelled hair has been there since, primarily with their SEC Network branch.
Then came the news a month ago. “Tim Tebow wants to play Major League Baseball.” The title seemed like pure headline candy, but he was quite serious.
Now 29, Tebow hadn’t played competitive baseball since his Senior Year in High School back in 2004. He led Nease High School to the Florida Final Four and dominated the opposition with a .494 batting average to earn an All-State selection. Clearly he had the talent, but that was 12 years ago.
His High School coach called him a “Six Tool Player” (with that sixth tool up for conversation) and the Los Angeles Angels had said they wanted to draft him but didn’t receive a response on his information card. As “recently” as 2010, Tebow was crushing batting practice at a Memphis High School.
All this is taken in immeasurable strides as hitting a (pro) baseball is considered the hardest thing to do in sports. However, the superior athletics of Tim Tebow were proving quite capable in levels of his choosing.
On August 30th, an estimated 40 scouts were in attendance at USC’s Dedeaux Field to watch Tebow go through the MLB Combine, if you will.
Tebow was praised for the things that made him an elite football talent. His power-speed combo shined above all else, with his batting practice portion producing a lot of home runs and his drill work proving very effective. His size and strength, work ethic and clear commitment to being excellent were complimented to nobody’s surprise.
Unfortunately, he didn’t impress much with his arm which was the big roadblock that prevented his football career from taking off. ESPN’s Jim Bowden graded Tebow’s arm as a 40 on the 20-80 prospect scale, coming in at below average. He ran a 6.6-6.8 (we’ll average it to 6.7) 60-yard dash as cameras flashed and pencils hit paper at Tasmanian speeds.
Tim Tebow awoke to good news on Thursday morning. The New York Mets had signed him to a Minor League deal. Tebow will report to the Mets’ Instructional League in Port St. Lucie, Florida that begins on September 18th.
The league usually lives in very dark shadows but that will certainly not be the case for these Mets, whoever they play and given the extreme shine on Tebow’s superstar status. The whole Instructional League will very likely receive a big PR boost from this whole Tebow thing.
Which some consider to be the point of all this.
Whether you believe that or not is an entirely different argument. I do not, but you won’t see me arguing the point. Everyone deserves a shot at their dreams, even if it’s their second dream, but Tebow’s notoriety has cleared a path to the opportunity quicker than Moses cleared the Red Sea.
“Kids grind their whole life to get to where he’s at now and just because he’s Tebow he gets the privilege,” continued Wilson.
Not helping the drama at all, Tebow will miss one to two days a week of Instructs because of his commitment to SEC Network. While I won’t pile onto the PR mess this could (quickly) become, it’s not lost on anyone who works in baseball that after over a decade away from the game, Tebow will be excused from work to talk on TV. All the while players making fractions of his salary will be in the cages and on the field when they aren’t sleeping.
“That’s something I’ve committed to do,” Tebow said. “For me, if I’ve committed to do something, it’s my word. I just really appreciate (Mets’ General Manager Sandy) Alderson giving my word to it and I have to fulfill it. I love doing (television work) and it’s something I’ll continue to do in the fall.”
Tebow looks to join the hallowed list of athletes to play at the pro levels of both the NFL and MLB. Only Bo Jackson, Brian Jordan, Chuck Dressen, Evar Swanson, Charlie Berry andDeion Sanders have done so.
Tebow has an incredibly difficult and presumably long road ahead of him, but, in a line of work where self-confidence is as important as a beating heart, perhaps no athlete has ever believed in himself as much as Tim Tebow.