The wait is worth it for Tebow

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The 3-foot-high ice sculpture in the foyer, cleverly molded in the shape of the familiar NFL shield, had all but melted into the shrimp and crab claws by the time the Denver Broncos ended Tim Tebow's vigil Thursday night.

But when you've waited the better part of two decades to be part of the NFL, a couple of hours more doesn't seem like very much, right?

Especially when you're largely surrounded by the two dozen or so friends and family members who have invested almost as much in the dream, a destiny that Tebow had set for himself since he was 6 years old. Or when the menu supplied by the caterer included two favorite delicacies, chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese, but not his mother Pam's homemade tacos. Or when the atmosphere at the home from which Tebow observed the 75th NFL draft -- a sprawling manse in a community where the lawns were nearly as lush as the putting greens that lay just a pitching wedge away -- was more like a party than a nail-biting waiting game.

"It's all been worth it," said Tebow, dressed in jeans and a light blue shirt and wearing several elastic, message-bearing bracelets on both wrists, after the Broncos selected him with the 25th overall choice. "The good stuff is usually worth the wait. You've just got to be patient."

Throughout the evening, Tebow demonstrated great patience, indeed, answering the same questions repeatedly, hustling off to spend time with some buddies, and then emerging to answer the same questions again.

About 45 minutes before the pick that anointed him a pro, Tebow stood in the den of the home, watching the draft on a flat-screen television. Agent Jimmy Sexton -- who had huddled with the Tebow family in an upstairs room earlier in the evening and told the them that the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner figured to go off the board sometime around the 22nd choice or perhaps after -- consulted briefly with the quarterback and predicted that Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome would play a key role in the selection.

Moments later, with Tebow displaying none of the strain of the moment, the doors to the den closed. Shortly thereafter, Tebow emerged, a cell phone to his ear and Broncos coach Josh McDaniels on the other end.

Tebow beamed and the house, filled with supporters, broke into cheers and tears. When the call first came in, Tebow looked at Sexton, who ordered, "Answer the thing!"

One of Sexton's associates, Jim Denton, hugged Tebow and then turned to a reporter and said of the Broncos: "They're one of the most honest teams in the league. They did exactly what they told us they'd do."

Ridiculed by some because of allegedly flawed mechanics, Tebow was the second quarterback selected.

"I think, when I was in the Philippines and watched all those people going about their business without stuff we just took for granted, I learned patience," Tebow said. "So it didn't matter where I went, just so I went. If it was [Friday], and the second round or so, then so be it. But I am glad that it's over."

That Tebow went in the first round -- given the criticisms of him and the fact he had his throwing motion so deconstructed by personal mentors Zeke Bratkowski, Marc Trestman and Noel Mazzone -- seemed poetic justice.

Sexton and Tebow had identified the Broncos as a legitimate contender to choose the quarterback, and those suspicions were justified when Denver began to deal back and forth in the first round. The Broncos had met with Tebow at the combine and were very impressed with Tebow, as he was with them.

After going quiet for about a month, and sending only one area scout to Tebow's group workout, the Broncos auditioned the quarterback Monday, putting him on the field and at the blackboard for nearly six hours. They then flew from here to Atlanta to work out Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who had suffered a broken foot in February and had been unable to work for scouts. The Broncos chose Thomas three picks before Tebow; the two now form the nucleus of the team's future passing attack.

Last week, the Broncos flew Tebow to Denver to meet with team officials. On Thursday afternoon, the quarterback played basketball with his brothers, got in a throwing workout and found time for a haircut.

As Tebow rode to the clubhouse here where most of the media were sequestered Thursday evening, he received a post-selection cell-phone call from Florida coach Urban Meyer, who knows McDaniels well.

"He told me I couldn't have gotten picked by a better guy," Tebow said. At about the same time in the back of the limo, Sexton fielded a call from Newsome, who traded the Ravens' pick at No. 25 to Denver. "He said I owe him 25 slabs of ribs for making [the trade]," Sexton said, laughing.

Someone in the back of the SUV reminded Tebow, a local hero bypassed by the fan-needy Jaguars in the first round, that Jacksonville opens the 2010 season by hosting the Broncos.

McDaniels' mentor, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, was rumored to be very interested in the quarterback. The rationale was that, while Tebow served his quarterback apprenticeship behind Tom Brady, the Patriots would figure out a role for him. But it never came to that, and the chances are that McDaniels won't be quite as creative.

Tebow, who will fly to Denver on Friday for a press conference, has a pretty good feel for the Broncos and their personnel. But he makes no pretense of trying to quickly oust starter Kyle Orton or recently acquired backup Brady Quinn.

"I just have a passion to play football," Tebow said. "When you do things different than other people sometimes do them, and you don't settle for just being average, you open yourself up [for criticism]. But I'm ready for it. I've learned to live with it. I never just wanted to do things the same way everybody else does."

But there is little doubt Tebow is a student of the game, a human sponge who soaks in everything about his sport.

Asked if he would wear his familiar No. 15 in Denver, the quarterback cited the recent trade of wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who used to wear that uniform number, to the Miami Dolphins.

"Well," Tebow said, smiling and rubbing his eyes in the first sign of fatigue in what was a long day, "it's opened up now, hasn't it?"

Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.