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Tim Tebow a true winner

Published January 21. 2012 09:01AM

My husband wishes I were more of a football fan so I would sit with him to watch NFL games.

I enjoy football and have always liked to watch the Philadelphia Eagles. But I can't sit there in front of the TV and root for any old team. When the Eagles are no longer in the playoff race, I lose interest.

But all that changed when I caught the Tim Tebow fever that has swept the country. Like hundreds of thousands of other people, my interest in football was ignited by the Denver Broncos quarterback.

I became a Tim Tebow fan back when he was the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. It wasn't his football prowess that drew me to him. It was his missionary work in the Philippines, the substantial charity he started and his uncommon genuineness.

Because Tebow grew up in Florida and played college football for the University of Florida, newspapers in the sunshine state have always carried a lot of Tebow coverage. Reading those stories convinced me Tebow is a lot more than a football hero.

But people don't watch football because a player helps the terminally ill or does missionary work. I'm no exception.

I watched Tim Tebow games because he's exciting…because we never knew what he would do next. He taught us to never get away from the game until the last second because all of a sudden he could change everything.

The improbable quarterback has drawn more praise and more criticism than any other quarterback, rookie or veteran.

I like the way Tebow handles that criticism. When interviewed on camera and told of scathing remarks against him by another NFL player, Tebow responded mildly: "I'm honored to be discussed by someone as great as he is."

Sportswriters followed Tebow around, looking for cracks in his Christian armor. They never found one.

So there I sat with my husband during the Pittsburgh-Broncos game, rooting and screaming with excitement as Tebow managed another improbable fete.

But the best thing about Tim Tebow wasn't part of the televised game. Immediately after that victory, there were 9,420 Tebow tweets PER SECOND, with millions trying to find the right superlatives for the football hero.

Where was Tebow in all that? The first thing he did after the postgame press conference was rush to the side of 16-yer-old Baily Knaub to ask if she had gotten anything to eat. He had paid all the expenses for Baily and her family to come to the game.

Anyone with means can give money. Tebow gave a lot more than that. He stayed with Baily for an hour, asking about her 73 surgeries. He said she was the true hero, not him.

Baily said her experience with Tebow taught her to never give up. "He gave me the strength for the future," she said. "Today might seem black but tomorrow's a new day and a new promise."

Tebow claims he got more out of spending time with Baily than she did.

"It puts it all in perspective," he said. "The game doesn't really matter. I'll give 100 percent of my heart to win it. But in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money. It's to invest in people's lives, to make a difference."

That, to me, is the true magic of Tim Tebow.

After the Denver Broncos were trounced by the New England Patriots, there were no stories about Tim Tebow being a miracle maker. But Rick Reilly, who was national sportswriter of the year 11 times, wrote a column called, "I believe in Tim Tebow."

"I've come to believe in Tim Tebow, but not for what he does on a football field. He represents the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am," wrote Reilly.

"There's not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow, and I've looked everywhere for it," said the sportswriter.

He concluded: "I believe in him not because of his football miracles but because he pours his love into everyone he meets. That's miracle enough for me."

It's miracle enough for me, too.

It's why I don't need a scoreboard to know Tim Tebow is a true winner.

And it's why my husband will be happy he has a viewing buddy whenever a Tebow game is on TV.

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