ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It’s 30 minutes after the Denver Broncos completed a June minicamp practice on a warm day in the Rockies.
Future Hall of Famer and team leader Champ Bailey is relaxing near the entrance to the team’s locker room, about to enjoy the air conditioning and a post-practice meal.
Bailey suddenly points to a figure on a distant field. A solitary player remains at work.
It’s Tim Tebow.
“See that?” Bailey asks. “That’s Tebow. It’s long after practice and he’s still out there. That’s what he does. That’s not for show. He’s not just doing that because the media is here today. He does that every day.”
That’s why Bailey, one of the best left cornerbacks of this era and someone whose opinion on quarterbacks matters, is putting his bet on Tebow.
When Denver shocked the NFL world by trading three picks to take Tebow at No. 25 overall, the former Florida quarterback became one of the stories of the draft. He was already a polarizing figure before he was picked. Some NFL scouts and teams believed that Tebow’s athleticism, work ethic and desire would translate into NFL success. Other teams, worried about his awkward mechanics and arm strength, didn’t rate him high.
Now that Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has staked his reputation as a quarterback guru and his future as Denver’s head coach on Tebow, the buzz has exploded. It’s not just in the media and on fan boards. It’s in the Broncos’ locker room.
“We’re all interested in it,” Bailey says. “He has the team behind him. We heard so much about Tebow before he got here and he’s a big story. But everything he has shown shows that he can succeed. The guy just works at his job so much.”
Several hours later, Tebow, who has routinely led the charge in team sprints during practice, emerges from the extra field work and the classroom. His eyes light up when Tebow is told of the high praise coming from his high-profile teammate.
“That’s what I want,” Tebow says. “It means so much that my teammates believe in me and know that I’m working hard. That’s why I’m here.”
It’s important that Tebow is committed to hard work. He has to keep plowing if he is going to make an impact anytime soon. Tebow struggled some in minicamp, where he has misfired several times and thrown interceptions. Yet, he bounced back Saturday from a poor showing Friday. Basically, Tebow looks like what he is: a rookie quarterback. He's up and down.
He is the No. 3 quarterback on the roster behind starter Kyle Orton and backup Brady Quinn. McDaniels said Tebow has to make strides during the summer. “Nothing is going to be given to him,” McDaniels said. “He has to keep coming along.”
Still, the Broncos believe Tebow will be on the fast track.
McDaniels lauds Tebow’s study habits and his eagerness to learn. The coach said the key for Tebow this summer will be to find a way to translate what he is digesting in the classroom and make the correct adjustments on the field.
“That’s what’s he’s learning now,” McDaniels said. “That’s not easy. Just because you know it in the classroom, it doesn’t mean you can do it on the field. That’s the process he’s going through now.”
“You have to train your brain to make it click on the field," Tebow said. "It’s going fast and I have to make those adjustments.”
Tebow is relishing the lack of restrictions that comes with being an NFL quarterback. Because he has graduated from school, he can spend all the time he needs studying and learning at the facility.
“It’s 24 hours football,” Tebow said. “I love it. This is how I’m going to spend my summer.”
Known for his intensity and strong will, Tebow strives for success because he knows the football world is watching. He says he wants to succeed for his family and his new coaches. “Coach McDaniels picked me," he said. "This isn’t like college where I could have gone anywhere. They took a chance on me. I want to succeed for the Broncos.”
But Tebow also admits he’s driven because of the fear of failure.
“I have that in me,” Tebow said. "The SEC championship loss to Alabama [last December] drives me. That’s with me, more than the national championships or other big wins. The failures stick with you. I don’t want that feeling. Nobody likes that feeling.”
There’s no doubt Tebow is a fierce competitor solely focused on making good. Will it work in Denver? His on-the-field work shows he is a rookie quarterback with a lot to learn. His dedication as a professional shows that Tebow is as advertised.
“I’m impressed,” Bailey said. “I like what I see so far.”