With each dramatic, down-to-the-wire win, the unlikely legend of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow increases.
Last Sunday's playoff victory over the heavily favored, defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers was Tebow's latest Mile-High Miracle, as he tossed a stunning, game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime.
Who won't be tuning in tonight when the 13.5-point underdog Broncos challenge the Goliath-like New England Patriots in Foxborough, Ma., itching to see if Denver's "David" can put the pigskin in his slingshot and slay all-time-great Tom Brady?
But amid the media hype over his on-field successes—and press-conference declarations of faith—Tebow's charitable work and plain ol' expressions of kindness don't grab nearly as many headlines.
Like his pregame meeting last Sunday with Bailey Knaub, a Loveland, Co. high schooler who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when she was 7 and has since undergone 73 surgeries, including the removal of one of her lungs.
“[Tebow] just came over and said ‘Hi Bailey. It’s such a great opportunity to meet you.’ And he gave me the ball, and I was so excited,” she told CBS Denver.
Knaub, whose disease is called Wegener’s granulomatosis, has been a Tebow fan since his college days and was thrilled when Denver drafted the Heisman Trophy winner. After Knaub's cousin wrote to the Tim Tebow Foundation about what Bailey had endured, the foundation's Wish 15 program—which allows children with life-threatening illnesses to meet Tebow—came through big time.
Knaub got primo tickets to the Steelers-Broncos game for her and her family, who all got to spend some time at the game with Tebow’s family and discuss their common faith.
“We believe in prayer and we give all the glory to God,” Knaub’s father Rob said. “He saved her life three different times.”
Then during pregame warmups, Tebow met with Bailey. “He was so generous and kind and so amazing,” she told CBS Denver, adding that he gave her a signed football and a signed rookie card to boot.
“It was so unreal. I was walking on air,” she said. “I couldn’t stop smiling.”
The grins grew even wider after Bailey's new friend led the Broncos to the next playoff round in thrilling fashion, extending the squad's storybook run.
“I had a little jump session with my sister and did a little Tebow dance. I was on cloud nine,” Bailey said. “I couldn’t just stop jumping up and down and screaming ‘We’re going to New England!’"
Tebow even mentioned meeting with Bailey when talking to reporters after the huge upset. "I couldn’t believe it that he would take time after such a big win to mention me,” Bailey exclaimed.
Her mother, Kathy, told ESPN's Rick Reilly that Tebow's postgame surprises were far from finished.
"Here he'd just played the game of his life, and the first thing he does after his press conference is come find Bailey and ask, 'Did you get anything to eat?' He acted like what he'd just done wasn't anything, like it was all about Bailey." Tebow even added extra star power, calling over receiver Demaryius Thomas (who caught the game-winning touchdown) and uber-iconic John Elway to meet the enthralled 16 year old.
"It was the best day of my life," Bailey said. "Tim Tebow gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine...the strength for the future. I know now that I can face any obstacle placed in front of me. Tim taught me to never give up because...today might seem bleak but it can't rain forever and tomorrow is a new day, with new promises."