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Tim Tebow Makes Life Stranger Than Fiction
Once upon a time, there was a quarterback that nobody believed in. And I mean nobody. Well, except for maybe his mom, but you get my point. Every football analyst in America said he couldn't succeed. Everyone you talked to thought he had no chance. Even his own head coach believed that "he'd be screwed." Heck, his team's vice president, who happened to be a legendary gunslinger for the Denver Broncos—that's who this guy played for—thought he'd go 3-13 and said plainly, this kid is not a long term option.
Part of reason nobody believed in him was his throwing motion. And boy was that thing hideous. I mean imagine raising your arm up as high as possible, football in hand, then swinging it all the way back and throwing the ball like that. Weird, right? I'm exaggerating a little … but not really. This thing made absolutely no sense. But somehow, he'd won two national championships in college with those mechanics and ended up a backup in the NFL.
To be honest with you, I didn't believe in him at first, either. When he took over for the Broncos that team was just a disaster. They were 1 and 4. Teammates were pointing fingers. Asking to be traded. It was a mess. How was this kid, who was apparently anti-spiral, supposed to make it?
I remember the day he got his first start like it was yesterday. The Broncos were playing the Dolphins in Miami and all eyes were on him. Before you knew it, Denver was down 15-0 with a few minutes left to play. It was over. Everything people were saying about this guy was about to come true and you wondered whether he'd ever even see another snap.
Then, it started happening.
Now, it's going to be hard to explain this and you're probably going to look at me like I'm crazy, but I'm not joking about any of it. What I'm about to tell you actually happened. Down 15, with almost no time on the clock, this kid started making drive after drive after drive. He was throwing bombs, making accurate passes, using his feet, and again, all of it defied logic. How did a guy, who for 40 minutes looked like he had no business in the NFL, who could barely even complete a single pass, all of the sudden start making every single play? Without error?! It was as if he'd become possessed by the ghost of some relentless NFL legend. In the most unbelievable twist of fate, he won that game and broke a record for coming back from the largest deficit with the least amount of time.
That was just the beginning.
After a few wins against some bad teams and an ugly loss against a good team, it was the moment of truth for this kid. The Broncos were going to play a defensive-minded Jets team that was supposed to be playoff bound. Once more, Denver was on the ropes for the entire contest and it seemed like every time you looked up, he was either making a horrifying pass or the Broncos were punting the ball; right up until there was less than a minute left and he made an inconceivable 95-yard drive to win the game.
Then, he did it with 29 seconds left in overtime against the Chargers. Two scores in the final 93 seconds against the Vikings. And a comeback victory with two seconds left in regulation and 58 seconds left in overtime against the Bears.
Listen, I don't blame you for looking at me this way, but I swear to you it actually happened. He did it in back-to-back-to-back-TO-BACK games. Non-stop late-game heroics. Not to mention the fact that his entire team was playing better, too. Everyone was possessed. This didn't look like the 1-4 team that was ready to fold and hit the draft. You had running backs playing five years younger than they were. A defense exceeding its potential. Kickers making kicks they'd never made. Everyone buying into an unconventional system the coaches created for this guy.
And his teammates loved him.
To me, that was actually one of his greatest accomplishments. Imagine if you were on a team that was playing out of their minds and all anyone ever talked about was your new, duck-throwing QB. Sounds like a recipe for resentment and envy, right? Not in Denver. Not in 2011-12. It was pretty clear that almost everyone outside of Mile-High city despised this guy, but his teammates didn't. Why, you ask? Well, I'm sure some of them understood that we love our celebrities—that's just how we are—but that doesn't explain why they loved him.
They loved him because he worked hard. Coaches said he was always the last guy out of the training room. He studied film like he was about to take his finals all the time. He worked on his mechanics painstakingly. And his offensive coordinator said that like clockwork, he'd get a call from him at about 9 or 10 each night, to go over questions he had about different plays.
People respect that brand of dedication and hard work.
More importantly, they also loved him because he genuinely cared about his team. In every play his teammates made, good or bad, he'd either tell them to keep their heads up or congratulate them in an unusually sincere way. This guy personified we-first. You might ask, well what's so crazy about that? A lot of guys do that.
Not like this guy.
It's almost as if he lived vicariously through his teammates. If they succeeded, he would celebrate passionately. If he succeeded, it was because of them. And if anything went wrong, they would overcome it together.
Let this be a lesson to you. In this world we live in, selflessness resonates. It's one of the few things we can almost all agree on. People will rally around you if you put others first. And this guy was the incarnation of that philosophy. Never a sound bite about how stupid he was making his critics look, his personal effect or how he might've sparked a revolution. Not an "I told you so" or a "look at me now." Without exception, he'd just say his teammates made him look better than he was, which was true, but he was also a whole lot better than anyone could've imagined.
In spite of everything that made you think, what is this guy doing on the field? He just kept winning. At one point, dismayed analysts actually thought God might be responsible for the whole thing. Not just because this kid played like a completely different person in crunch time, but because he was a uniquely devout and vocal Christian.
And because some bizarre things were happening on the field.
I mean just conceptualize this for a second. This guy is winning game after game with mind-boggling plays in fourth quarters and overtimes. His teammates were making every necessary stop and offensive play, too. And his opponents were throwing interceptions, dropping balls, running out of bounds and doing all sorts of things that you just couldn't believe were happening at the most inopportune times. To put it in perspective, if all of this was in a movie, everyone who watched it would say: This could never happen. Or, Hollywood is at it again with their ridiculous storylines. But the truth is, I don't even think Hollywood would've gone there; it was that unrealistic.
Stranger than fiction.
Personally, I always thought it was kind of silly to say God was behind the whole thing. You'd think He'd have more important things to do than determine the outcome of football games, right? Sounds like something the mafia would try, not Jesus. Still, I completely understand why people would go there. How do we explain the inexplicable? Exactly. And trust me, this was inexplicable.
Unfortunately, however, the end of the regular season wasn't all miracles for this kid. Denver lost three games in a row and he played some of the worst football of his young career. People thought that the Mile-High magic had come to an end.
The Broncos sneaked into the postseason, anyway.
In their first playoff game, they had to face the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, and again, all of the pundits were absolutely positive that there was no way the Broncos could win. The Steelers were two-time world champions and they boasted the best defense in the NFL.
A "bad QB" had to be doomed against them, right?
Well, the atrocious passer who didn't belong in the league and always "couldn't," did. He picked apart the Steelers defense, throwing for a remarkable 316 yards. He beat the Steelers in overtime in just 11 seconds, the fastest OT victory of all time. He also posted the highest single-game, playoff passer rating in Broncos history, legendary gunslinger and doubter included.
Against all odds, he'd done it again.
This guy made it a habit to leave people everywhere widemouthed, in utter disbelief. And he did it when everyone said he couldn't. I think it's one of the greatest sports stories of perseverance I've ever witnessed. And it shows what we can accomplish when we devote ourselves entirely to a cause and work together.
In that way, his story should inspire all of us.
Oh and by the way, his name was Tim Tebow.
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