ENGLEWOOD The Gospel and the gridiron are inextricably intertwined in Tim Tebows world.
The scrambling quarterback and devout Christian draws as much scrutiny for mixing faith with football as he does for his unconventional winning ways.
With all eyes on the quirky quarterback who has led the Denver Broncos remarkable resurgence, Tebow isnt shy about publicly professing his religious beliefs, often ending interviews with a hardy God bless!
He inspired a viral phenomenon known as Tebowing when he dropped to a knee in prayerful reflection as his teammates celebrated around him in Miami after the first in a string of six outrageous comebacks.
Raised by missionary parents, Tebow wore Bible verses on his eye black at Florida and still preaches to villagers in the Philippines and inspires inmates during jailhouse talks.
And hes sharing his religious beliefs with his teammates as enthusiastically as he yells the cadence at the line of scrimmage on Sundays.
Coach John Fox asked Tebow to give the weekly address to the team on the eve of a game at San Diego last month, and nobody was surprised when Tebow shared Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, something Tebow deemed appropriate as offense, defense and special teams feed off one another in what NFL junkies call complementary football.
Another time, Tebow approached defensive players before a home game against the New York Jets and told them not to fret, Gods got this.
I like his passion, Fox said. I think in todays world with all thats going on in sport and our society, I think its wonderful.
Former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer said he likes Tebow but would like him a lot more if he would quit reminding everybody how much he loves Jesus Christ.
No way, Tebow said, insisting he isnt just a Christian or a believer at church.
Many an athlete has used his platform as a pulpit.
Chap Clark, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school based in California, said Tebows unorthodox route to success, after so many predicted he would fail as a quarterback, has set him and his faith apart, even from the many other athletes who talk about religion.
Tim has this ferocity as a competitor, but its still a game to him. He is consistently saying that football is not the center of life, Clark said. His great strength is that even people who dont agree with his faith at all play their best around him.
Tebow recently told The Associated Press that he knows his openness about his religion can be divisive, but he feels compelled to share his story of salvation regardless of the sensitivity of the subject. He relayed one of his favorite quotes: I dont know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future, in showing how he leans on his faith so he can focus on football unencumbered by others opinions.
To get me through? Without a doubt, 100 percent, Tebow said. And thats the thing about my faith: Its not just something that happens when youre at church or happens when youre praying or reading the Scripture. Its part of who you are, as a person, as a player, in your life and everything.
Teammate Brian Dawkins, whos equally enthusiastic about sharing his Christianity, said he cant fathom why anyone would have a problem with somebody invoking his right to free speech or freedom of religion.
He doesnt pull up a pulpit in the middle of the locker room and say, Hey, everybody, gather round, let me tell you something. Thats not how this thing works, Dawkins said. Its individual. If someone asks a question, well share our faith and our testimony.
I dont understand why its such a big deal. Tebow, hes not the first one Reggie White, Irving Fryar, there are many guys who have lived their lives with outside faith. But for whatever reason, Tim gets so much grief now. To this day, I dont understand it.
Football is what we do, not who we are, he said.
Amen to that, Tebow said.
The scrambler, who sometimes sings hymns as he runs onto the football field to stay calm in crunch time, said he cant compartmentalize his faith because its such an integral part of who he is.
Unfortunately, a lot of people do, but what I feel is living your faith and being genuine is in everything you do and thats football, thats life, Tebow said.
So hes not going to stop praying on the field or praising God in public even if some find it offensive.
Whether or not his teammates share in his tenets, theres no denying hes inspiring them.
He had everybody listening when he spoke about the Proverbs, linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. Just to see him get up there and talk and believe in himself, thats something that spreads throughout the whole team. He believes in himself, so we believe in him.
Before a game against the Jets last month, Tebow approached Woodyard and cornerback Champ Bailey, among others, to share his faith.
He said God just came and told him to just make sure that he spreads the word and tell everybody, dont worry about a thing, and at the end of the day give credit to God, Woodyard recounted.
Probably if anything I said, Dont worry. Theres a plan for whatever. Lets go and give our heart out and be the same no matter what. Lets give God the glory win or lose and go lay our hearts on the line, Tebow said. Thats usually what I most often say, something like that.
Its not like Tebow is proselytizing, inducing others to convert to his faith, his teammates say.
The thing about Tim, I respect him, because hes never pushed his religion off on anybody, Woodyard said. He just goes out there and believes in God himself and shows it every day.
Randall Cunningham, also a mobile quarterback who regularly expressed his religious views during his playing career, said many people criticize Christians for being hypocrites and maybe expect Tebow to fall from grace.
But Im going to tell you something, that kid is not a hypocrite, Cunningham said. I watch him. He cares about his team, he cares about the fans, he cares about the game, he cares about success and he knows that he can do all things through Christ and thats what he does and thats why he wins.
Indeed, Cunningham said he thinks the Broncos wouldnt have won seven of eight under another quarterback.
Gods hand is on him. Because hes trusting God, I believe that God honors his faith, Cunningham said.
The Bible says that God chose the lowly things of this world, thats what everybody says about him, that hes not a good quarterback, hes not this and hes not that. And then what does God do? He proves everybody wrong. Through this young, 24-year-old kid, in front of the world, God uses him. That is a powerful, powerful man of God right there.
AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.