Courtesy Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has Americans standing up and taking notice.
More than 42 million people watched Tebow's thrilling game-winning touchdown strike last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the highest-rated NFL wild card game in 18 years, and set a record for the most sports tweets - with more than 9,000 per second.
Tebow's the talk of the town, from Denver to "The Late Show with David Letterman" ("Top 10 little-known facts about Tim Tebow . . . Number 1: Can turn water into Gatorade").
With a series of improbable comeback wins this season, Tebow's devout (or devoted) fans have come to expect miracles. But Tebow's now well-known propensity for praising God has made many fans weary, preferring a separation of church and game.
Tebow's memoir, "Through My Eyes," is now 5th on The New York Times best seller list. But he's selling much more than books. Tebow already has endorsement deals with Jockey, Nike and FRD energy drinks.
Experts say his sudden marketing power for the future is almost unprecedented.
"He's a good looking guy, he's a great athlete, he's a good character person, he appeals to a large demographic," said Matt Delzell of The Marketing Arm.
But it's a commercial Tebow did for free that proved to be controversial. An ad which aired on Super Bowl Sunday in 2010, featured Tebow and his mother talking about her difficult pregnancy, advocating a pro-life position. Pro-choice groups lobbied to have the ad shelved.
"When there is such intense fervor of some fans for imitating the Tebow-ing, that becomes off-putting to ones who are not following in that line of faith," said pastor and Professor Joe Price, who has been teaching a college course on religion in sports for 25 years.
Tebow's success was anything but guaranteed. Despite two national championships and a Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida, Tebow's football critics didn't think his poor throwing mechanics and run-first style would work in the NFL.
But Tebow kept believing, and this year he help resurrect a Denver franchise kept out of the playoffs for the past five seasons.
Tebow talked candidly with CBS' Jim Brown about what keeps him grounded through all the mania.
"Number one, what my mom and dad preached to me as a kid. Just because you may have athletic ability and may be able to play a sport doesn't make you any more special than anybody else," Tebow said. "It doesn't mean that God loves you more than anybody else. We play a sport, and it's a game. At the end of the day, that's all it is, is a game."
He's just trying to lead his team to the promised land - that's Indianapolis, for Super Bowl XLVI.
Appearing on "CBS This Morning: Saturday," Brown said that Tebow's marketing potential is big given his appeal: "We want to hear good stories, and he's a good story so far," Brown said. "
Please join WFMY News 2 after the game and see Lauren Melvin explain Tebowmania in the Triad and beyond.
Your Take: Has Tim Tebow influenced you to be more open about your religious beliefs/faith?