The former Denver Broncos quarterback, a devout Christian who became a cultural phenomenon while praying on the sidelines, is more popular than ever.
“In Christianity, it’s the Pope and Tebow right now,” Celebration Church pastor Joe Champion said. “We didn’t have enough room to handle the Pope.”
The former Heisman Trophy winner led the Broncos to the NFL playoffs last season with a series of late-game comeback victories and then pulled an upset of the powerful Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs.
That wasn’t enough for him to keep his job, though, as Denver traded Tebow to the Jets on March 21 after acquiring free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning.
Tebow told the crowd Sunday that the attention he receives for his religious beliefs are a positive factor, including the famous “Tebowing” prayer pose he strikes on the field.
“It’s being talked about,” he said of Tebowing. “That’s exciting.”
Tebow drew applause when he recited part of the Pledge of Allegiance.
“First and foremost is what this country was based on: one nation under God. The more that we can get back to that. . . .”
On athletes claiming they are not role models, he had a simple retort: “Yes you are, you’re just not a good one.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.