Bronco rookie’s devotion to faith divides fans |

Bronco rookie’s devotion to faith divides fans

Electa Draper
The Denver Post
Vail, Colorado
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow signs an autograph for Nikki Spender, 19, of Parker, Colo. on her Tebow jersey after the morning practice Aug. 3, 2010 at Dove Valley. Tebow, a former University of Florida Gator, is perhaps as well-known for his custom of inscribing Scripture chapters and verses under his eyes as he was for winning a Heisman Trophy. (AP Photo/ The Denver Post, John Leyba,)

DENVER – Michelle Olson calls herself the anti-Tebow.

She is a diehard Broncos fan but has no love in her heart for its limelight-stealing sensation, rookie quarterback and evangelical everyman Tim Tebow.

“He’s a big distraction and has done nothing to prove he’s NFL material,” the 25-year-old Fort Collins woman said Tuesday morning at Broncos training camp in Dove Valley.

It’s Tebow’s eagerness to share his Christian values and beliefs that really irks her.

“That’s why I hate him,” she said.

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“That’s why I adore him,” said Jennifer Longmore, 26, of Loveland, who quickly adds that “it’s a miracle” she and Olson are good friends.

Tebow is the only player on the team whose name Longmore knows.

“It’s my personal opinion that if you don’t have a uterus, you don’t have a right to express an opinion about abortion,” Olson snapped.

“You did not just go there,” Longmore said.

Tebow, a former University of Florida Gator, is perhaps as well-known for his custom of inscribing Scripture chapters and verses under his eyes as he was for winning a Heisman Trophy.

Then he filmed a Super Bowl TV ad for the Colorado Springs conservative ministry Focus on the Family, for which he and his mother extolled family virtues and made subtle reference to her decision to give birth to him, her “miracle baby,” rather than end her life-threatening pregnancy during her Christian mission overseas.

“If he wants to preach his values, he can do it at church and not at Mile High stadium,” Olson said.

“I think he’s absolutely great testimony, and I’m glad he was not aborted in the missionary field,” Longmore said.

It probably was a long ride home to northern Colorado for them.

Unquestionably happy about Tebow, the large evangelical Christian community in the state sees him as the perfect role model for sports-crazed children.

“We are excited he’s here in town,” said Robin Gentry, a 38-year-old mother of three from Centennial who identifies herself as an evangelical Christian.

“He’s not afraid to talk about his faith or show people what he believes,” Gentry said. “I like him as a person. I like his integrity.”

Dillon Meyers, an 11-year-old from Littleton, is, like many people, wearing Tebow’s No. 15 jersey.

“I think he’s going to be good. I like that he looks up to people and believes in God,” Dillon said.

His grandfather, Ron Woitalewicz, said he approves of Dillon’s looking up to Tebow.

“His character, his work ethic and beliefs make him special,” Woitalewicz said. “We’re Catholic. People are excited about his devotion and faith. In an age of flamboyant NFL players, he’s grounded. It’s not all about him.”

There are other pro athletes out there who are like that, Woitalewicz said, “but he’s just more open about it.”

James Perry, 22, of Denver comes from a long line of Broncos fans. He said he likes to think that religion is kept separate from what happens on the field, yet he realizes that Tebow’s faith is an important part of his character.

“He plays with a lot of heart,” Perry said. “He’s very fierce on the field. He has a great attitude. You watch him in the wind sprints – he never gives up. He never dogs out.”

As many fans observed in many different ways, Tebow plays football religiously.

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