A funny thing has happened over at the NFL online store. The number one selling jersey isn't future Hall of Famer QB Brett Favre , or Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees . It's not Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson , and it's not the No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft, Sam Bradford .
The top selling jersey is that of Denver rookie QB, Tim Tebow . Overall pick No. 25.
It's not surprising that a newly drafted QB would have a hot selling jersey. This time last year the top seller belonged to Mark Sanchez , QB for the New York Jets. The difference is Sanchez was a top 10 pick, and had been projected to be a top 10 pick, and subsequently the future franchise QB for his new team.
There was no consensus projection for Tebow. There was, in fact, a substantial thought he would go in the late rounds, possibly even be left undrafted. But Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels sees something in Tebow worth the investment. McDaniels made the decision to give up a 2nd, 3rd and 4th round pick to Baltimore in order to move up to number 25 to take the Florida Gator
So why is Tebow's No. 15 Broncos jersey flying out of the store? Part of the answer can be found in the top sellers from last year.
The top selling jersey for 2009 was Brett Favre, fourth on that list was Michael Vick . It might be easy to explain away the Favre sales, he's Brett Favre after all. But he's a legend closing in on the end of his career. A time when older guys are typically shaded out of the limelight by the new generation. Favre, in his forty year old body, wasn't supposed to go out there and play like a man renewed. Love him or hate him, you have to appreciate and admire the season he put together for the Vikings. And we want to see him do it again.
Michael Vick put himself in the middle of one of the decades biggest NFL related stories. His connection to, and participation in, acts of animal cruelty caused great debate amongst fans. Many thought he was done, wanted him done. Career over.
However, after completing his sentence and being reinstated by the NFL, Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles took Vick under their wings and committed to working with his continuing rehabilitation. The perseverance of Vick culminated in his being awarded the Ed Block Courage Award by his teammates. His dedication to changing his path is working.
These guys were underdogs. Tebow is an underdog, and as sports fans we tend to pull for them. Tebow also has something else we hunger for, and that's true character.
At the claim of character, his faith is usually thrown down on the table for discussion. It's odd that Tebow's faith is at all an issue when it seems that just about every other player thanks God (in some form or another) during an post game interview. This is not a new concept. What might be new is that, for Tebow, it's not just lip service. His Faith is a part of his identity and how he lives.
For anyone to consider his beliefs as an imposition on their own lives is preposterous. If the expectation is for Tebow to commence upon his career wearing his religious beliefs as a transparent decoration, many will be disappointed.
I happen to recall a lot of fuss being made over a rather geekish and lanky young pitcher for the Dodgers in the 1980's. This guy would sing Christian hymns on the mound and gather with players of both teams, after games, to kneel in a circle and pray (a tradition that we now see regularly in the NFL as well.) Some folks were outraged by the public display of his Faith. I'm sure many of them put up a blind eye to him, and that's a shame. In 1988, Orel Hershiser dominated the league and put together one of fhe single greatest seasons ever by a MLB pitcher.
Let's put the Faith issue to bed.
Tebow's work ethic and his absolutely infections belief that he can accomplish anything are what pull us in. His famous promise , given during the post game press conference after a loss to Ole Miss in September of 2008, is what defines his character.
That kind of accountability and leadership can't be taught. It's something that comes from within. We all want to believe in our own potential and ability like that. More so, we want others to believe it.
Tim Tebow walks his talk. Unashamed. If his faith has been a factor in that determination and self confidence, a confidence that is humble, lacking arrogance, then his faith has served him well.
I can't fathom that every Tebow jersey purchase is made by only a Bronco fan or a Gator fan, or a Christian. NFL fans, football fans, are seeing past the affiliations and seeing the man.
Tim Tebow is someone we can feel good about pulling for. People feel good about wearing his name and number on their back. We want to see him succeed in the NFL.
In a way, he already has.