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Tim Tebow’s biggest admirer is … Darryl Strawberry?

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(USA Today Sports Images)


Of all the people who have stayed on the Tim Tebow bandwagon, we didn't expect former baseball star Darryl Strawberry to be the one driving it.

Part of that is because he looks at Tebow and considers what might have been with his own career.

In an interview with USA Today, Strawberry – who was just as well known for his problems off the field as he was his prowess on it – said about Tebow that, "I admire him more than he could ever imagine."

Strawberry said he wishes he could have been more like Tebow and clean-living former Mets teammate Gary Carter, and it's easy to imagine how Strawberry's career would have been different had he been more like Tebow.

Tebow, who might be criticized for his play on the field but has never had his work ethic questioned, has never found himself in any trouble off the field. The same can't be said for Strawberry. He had three separate suspensions from Major League Baseball for cocaine use, including a year-long suspension in 2000. He has many arrests and stints in drug rehabilitation in his past. He has admitted to drug and alcohol problems through his career, which makes what he did accomplish a bit startling.

He had 335 career home runs and exactly 1,000 runs batted in during his career. He ranks 100th all time in career home runs. In 1999, his final year in the majors after so many off-field problems, he hit .327 with a slugging percentage of .612 at age 37. It came in a very small sample size of 49 at-bats, but it gives a glimpse of his natural talent. Even though his prime was good, it probably could have been better, too. He hit 39, 39 and 37 home runs in 1987, 1988 and 1990, but imagine if he had been clean the entire time. If he had been more like Tebow.

Although Strawberry and Tebow seem like opposites – although Tebow has far more athletic ability than many give him credit for, it's obvious hard work had a big role in his all-time great college career and the bits of NFL success he has had – Strawberry, an ordained minister now, is a huge fan.

"I look at Tebow," Strawberry told USA Today. "He gets bashed because of his faith. Let 'em laugh. Let 'em talk. He's a greater man than anyone who might be greater than him as an athlete. He's a real man.

"He gets challenged about his faith all of the time, but he never wavers because of opinions, or what the media is writing about him. His reward later on in life is going to be even greater because he stood in the midst of everybody criticizing him being a Christian and playing sports at the same time."

If only Strawberry had that kind of clarity when he was breaking into the major leagues.

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