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Porto: Tebow's Next Life

I was disappointed to learn that the New England Patriots had cut quarterback Tim Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner who has yet to find a home in the National Football League.

After his colossal success as a collegian at the University of Florida and some exciting performances as a rookie with the Denver Broncos, Tebow must be baffled, embarrassed, and frustrated by his overall subpar performance as a pro. Having been traded by one professional team and cut by two others, he may well be forced to retire from football even though he is just 26 years old.

I think that would be unfortunate for several reasons. First, nobody doubts Tebow’s desire to succeed in professional football or his work ethic. Second, the three pro teams for which he has played have questioned his abilities as a quarterback, while praising his overall athleticism, yet have stubbornly refused to teach him another position, such as running back or tight end, where perhaps he could salvage an NFL career. Not even the vaunted football I.Q. of Bill Belichick could find a place for Tebow on the football field other than at quarterback, even though he has demonstrated that he cannot throw a football accurately enough to succeed as a pro. Third, after an offseason marred by numerous arrests of its players, most notably former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on murder charges, the NFL could use a clean cut, humble fellow like Tim Tebow to boost its public image.

Admittedly, although Tebow has a large following in this country and abroad, not everybody was rooting for him. His overt religiosity, manifested in short prayers on bended knee after scoring touchdowns, annoyed people who are not religious or who at least do not share Tebow’s evangelical brand of Christianity. But Tebow’s faith also spurred him to engage in considerable charitable work and individual acts of kindness, thereby accounting for his large following, which extends beyond football fans. Still, Tim Tebow is not well suited to play quarterback in the modern, pass-happy National Football League so, absent a rare flash of creativity by a coach or general manager, his pro football career may in fact be over.

As a religious man, perhaps Tebow will conclude that he is meant for a more important purpose than playing quarterback into his late thirties. If so, I hope he puts his considerable popularity to work for a charitable organization that improves the lives of poor children in this country or the life spans of even poorer children in the Third World. By so doing, Tim Tebow could, in the long run, become a bigger hero in retirement than he ever was as a football player.

Brian Porto is Professor of Law and Director of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School, and author of "The Supreme Court and the NCAA: The Case for Less Commercialism and More Due Process in College Sports."
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