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BISHER: Tebow a surprising first-round selection

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I turned to the sports section Friday morning and read what I saw:

Tim Tebow had been chosen in the first round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.

You remember him. Not Tiny Tim, but Big Tim of the University of Florida. Left-handed. Built like a fullback, not a quarterback. Heisman Trophy winner when he was a sophomore, but deplored as an unlikely quarterback for NFL purposes. Best he could hope for was a third-round pick in the draft. In fact, he wasn't even invited to the television draft party in New York. At least he wasn't on stage to be presented when his name was called, which took everybody by surprise, including the commissioner, Roger Goodell.

And maybe Tim himself. They found him at a golf club outside Jacksonville, and there he posed for the photographers with a big smile across his face.

"With the 25th selection," Goodell began, "the Denver Broncos select ... Tim Tebow of the University of Florida."

Egg must have splattered all over the faces of those wiseacres who had so surely predicted that he would go no higher than the third round. You know, that fellow with all that hair, Mel Kiper Jr. — how do you make a lifetime out of trying to analyze an NFL draft? — sorry, I didn't stay up long enough for the 25th draftee. Once I'd seen that the Falcons had taken a linebacker from Missouri, I was ready for bed.

Rats! And to think I missed the Tebow reaction. There were three networks with tables full of smart-aleck experts who must have choked.

They'd said that Tebow's arm action would never pass in the pros; he took the ball back too far, and too low. A side-armer in a sense. But he had taken nothing for granted, Heisman, All-American, national champion all in his dossier.

"All the critics, all the negativity, it only pushed me that much harder," he said after the drafting was done.

It may not have been big with the Kiper Jr. types, but it was large in Denver. It was splashy news there, "Knocked the NFL off its insignia," The Post cackled.

Tebow falls in behind two other quarterbacks who have been around, Kyle Orton, who has started with the Bears and the Broncos, and Brady Quinn, another who falls in the line of Notre Dame failures. (Jimmy Clausen joined the crowd, a surefire first-rounder who misfired.)

"We needed a player at that position to be a good player," Josh McDaniel, coach of the Broncos, said, "and if we can make him a special player, that's what we're looking for."

Tebow wasn't drafted to be a fullback. Fullbacks don't run or pass much in the NFL. "I want to be a quarterback in the NFL for many years," Tebow said. "That's my goal, has been since I was six years old."

So the stage is set, and directs attention to another Broncos choice, completing a likely battery, Demaryius Thomas, a receiver from Georgia Tech.

The young man made his arrival with a noble impression. "I've always been around the right crowd," he said. "I became a Christian. Once I did that, it changed my life."

What Thomas stands for must have made a deep impression on the Broncos, who passed on the troublesome Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State to take him.

It will be awhile before all this plays out, but the Broncos have expressed a wisdom that follows some tragic losses of the past. Forget the doubting wiseacres who have been Tebow-bashing since the winter. The Broncos saw something that has been missing before, and it has to do with character.

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The long-time Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.