I have a confession to make.
I am a University of Florida alum, graduated in '07 after the first national championship, and, above all else, am a Gator. I came to this site, to this team, entirely because of Tim Tebow - I, and many of my friends, simply wanted to continue rooting for the greatest Gator as he began his professional career.
What I have found is so much more than that.
This team has changed me.
I first realized the change in week 7 of this year. Growing up in south Florida, watching Dan Marino play every Sunday, naturally made me a Dolphins fan, and for the first six weeks of this year, I'd listen to their games with an eye on the Broncos if they played at the same time. As the week 7 matchup approached, I thought I simply wanted Tim to have a great game but for the Dolphins to emerge victorious. As we remember, for much of the game he struggled, but the Dolphins held a comfortable 15-0 lead with little time left.
And I was miserable.
I realized then that I did not simply want Tim Tebow to perform well individually. I wanted the team to do well. I wanted the Denver Broncos to do well - I wanted them to win. The same team that had humiliated mine in the playoffs in '98 - now I was actively rooting for them to beat my Dolphins throughout the comeback. It was insane - sports isn't supposed to work like this, right? You're not supposed to change allegiances like that, right? - but like so many things about ourselves that we can't change, I couldn't deny it either - it was the truth. I have always bled Orange and Blue - but the Blue seemed to be getting darker.
Tim Tebow was certainly the catalyst to this change - I can't deny that either. There was always something special about him that we saw at Florida, that made us care about him more than any other player, that made us want to follow him more than any Gator. We don't do the same for Aaron Hernandez, or Riley Cooper, or Percy Harvin, or Joe Haden, or Brandon Spikes, or anyone else on those championship teams. There's something different about Tim that draws us to him. He is a special player, a special person. And without him, I wouldn't have been drawn to this team, which is full of special players.
Special players permeate this roster - players you can root for, care about. From veterans like Champ and Dawk, anchoring this defense, coming back to a rebuilding team when they could have walked away, or pushed to be moved to a "contender", to Willis McGahee, finding ways to resurrect a career filled with stalls and hiccups and running like he's 27 again, to Bunkley and Thomas, shoring up a defensive line at a position most felt we needed to address first in the draft, and our young OLine, busting open running lanes the size of the Grand Canyon, to our DOMINANT pass rushers - the VonDoom Quarterback Sandwich only gets more delicious with time! - to our young developing wideouts, Deck and DT and the Ninja, and our cannon-legged kickers.
I could go on and on up and down the roster, but you get the point - this is a special team we are witnessing.
The way they play together, for and with each other, keeping each other's hopes alive for the whole 60 minutes, with complete faith that someone, anyone, can and will make the necessary plays to win the game, is special. No, this team is not the most talented, and like any team at season's end there will be turnover and it won't be quite the same next year, but for now, through any of their faults and imperfections, I am thoroughly enjoying being a part of this team.
I have never followed a team as closely as this one, the 2011 Denver Broncos, and I have never been more excited and impatient for Sundays, and I have never felt during games the way this team makes me feel, with the highs and the lows and everything in between. This season has been nothing short of magical, and we are unlikely to experience anything quite like this again.
Whatever happens in the next three (to eight!) weeks, I am thankful to have had this experience, and I am thankful for this team. This has been an incredible time to be a Denver Broncos fan.
Thanks for reading.