Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been preparing all week for the biggest football game of his life. Working out, practicing throws, reviewing plays, all to get ready to face off against Tom Brady and the formidable New England Patriots for a spot in the AFC Championship game.
But just before he takes the field Saturday night in Foxboro, Mass., Tebow will take a step out of the limelight and let his mind wander from football for a moment, all to spend a few private moments with a young man whom he has never met, Zack McLeod of Cambridge. Like Tebow, McLeod, 20, was also a football player, playing in high school before suffering a devastating in-game brain injury three years ago.
Tebow, 24, plans to meet with McLeod before the game to talk, hangout, and even throw a few passes. "I think Zach is going to be really stoked," Pat McLeod , Zach's father, said. "He'll hug him and give him a high five."
Such a scenario is typical of Tebow, who enjoys brightening up the lives of young people stricken with serious illnesses; people like Adam Hubbs, a teenager with a rare life-threatening blood disorder who was partially paralyzed by a stroke. Tebow surprised him with a visit last summer in Florida, stopping by to throw a few balls in Adam's back yard.
Tebow receives a great deal of praise for his on-the-field accomplishments, accomplishments such as his 80-yard overtime touchdown pass that catapulted the Denver Bronco's over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. But it's his off-the-field actions that show a different side of Tebow.
"I think it really puts things in perspective, the stress and the pressure of playing this game," Tebow said. "It just puts it in perspective of, hey, this is more important than what I am doing right now ."