Tebow Balances Football, Philanthropic Work
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — There's a quarterback Tim Tebow can't wait to meet while in Buffalo for a pivotal late-season game. A special guest showing up at his request.
And no, it's not former Bills star Jim Kelly.
Tebow is bringing in Jacob Rainey, a highly touted prep player from a private school in Virginia who had part of his right leg amputated after a severe knee injury during a fall scrimmage.
Tebow is looking forward to chatting with Rainey before and again after the Denver Broncos' game against the Bills on Saturday.
For as dedicated as Tebow is about improving on the field, he's just as devoted to his engagements off it.
That's why losses really don't linger. He's already turned the page after the Broncos' 41-23 home loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday.
"I'll move on and continue to be positive and everything," Tebow said Tuesday.
As if he knows any other way.
Tebow has become the center of the football universe since guiding the Broncos (8-6) from the brink of playoff extinction back into contention. Denver leads the AFC West by a game over Oakland and San Diego after rebounding from a 1-4 start under Kyle Orton. The Broncos are in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 season.
Tebow's name and image have been popping up all over as he's appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, been mentioned at the Republican debate in Iowa and spoofed during a "Saturday Night Live" skit in which the show playfully mocks his faith.
Although Tebow hasn't seen the clip yet, his teammates have watched it.
"I've heard some players have been laughing about it a little bit," Tebow said.
Tebow doesn't mind all the attention. It gives him a platform for his causes, such as the Tim Tebow Foundation's "Wish 15" program. On Sunday, he brought in Kelly Faughnan, who is dealing with tumors and seizures.
"It gives her an opportunity to have a good time and gives her a little hope and puts a smile on her face," Tebow said. "Ultimately, that's what's important. As hard as it is to say it, that's more important than even winning or losing the game."
With every passing game, Tebow steadily improves in the passing department.
Sure, his mechanics are still rough and his style unorthodox. But he's making far better reads and decisions than he was several weeks ago.
"He's not afraid, no stranger to hard work," coach John Fox said. "He works as hard as any player I've ever coached."
Tebow even received quite a backing from the boss himself, John Elway, who gave his strongest indication yet in an interview with The Associated Press that he believes Tebow can transform from a scrambling quarterback into a pocket passer.
That meant a lot to the young quarterback.
"Mr. Elway is obviously one of the best to ever play the game. To get any compliment from him is extremely nice," said Tebow, 5-0 on the road since taking over the starting job. "He's been around this game a long time. That's nice to hear."
Bills coach Chan Gailey applauds Denver's bold choice of switching to the unconventional option offense to better fit Tebow's unique skill set. Gailey always believed that approach could be successful — for a short window anyway.
"I thought the first team that had guts enough to try it, it was going to work for about two years," Gailey said. "Then, defensive coaches in the NFL would catch up to it a little bit. Then, it would be a struggle."
Tebow has proficiently run this offense, just like he did at Florida, where he won the Heisman and two national titles. He has rushed for 610 yards this season, the most by a Denver quarterback and easily surpassing Elway's best mark (304 yards in 1987).
To Gailey, there's just one potential flaw with using the read option — keeping the quarterback healthy. That's a reason why it really hasn't been tried to the extent it has until now.
But Tebow's built to deliver a few wallops, too.
"It's a long season. You take a lot of hits. You take a lot of hits when you're not running option football," Gailey said. "Can the guy make (it through) the season? That's the key. But he's the ultimate wildcat kind of guy. He can run it and he can throw it from the quarterback position. He creates a big problem for defenses."
The biggest challenge remains keeping him in the pocket. Allowing Tebow to escape presents all sorts of headaches.
Because that's what makes Tebow so explosive, when he's able to make things happen with his feet.
"The last time I judged quarterbacks, which has been every day of my life it seems like, you're judged by winning football games," Gailey said. "That's what he does. He wins football games. It's probably not in the fashion that everyone in the NFL is used to, but he's leading his team to victory and that's an important factor for playing the quarterback position."
Winning isn't everything to Tebow.
His faith and foundation are just as high of priorities, too. Tebow's foundation is teaming up with CURE International to build a children's hospital in the Philippines, where Tebow was born. He also inspires inmates through jailhouse talks.
"Ultimately, that's taking my platform and using it for something good, more so than any 'SNL' skit or any magazine," Tebow said.
As for what he wanted for the holidays, Tebow didn't hesitate.
"To use my platform for good," he said, "and to beat the Bills."
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.