TAMPA — Every time Preston Winslow plays football with his dad, the 4-year-old pretends to be Tim Tebow.
The Denver Broncos quarterback is his favorite player. Just mention Tebow's name and his face lights up.
His parents revel in those grins. There may not be many left.
Preston has acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. Diagnosed in 2010, he stopped responding to treatment last month, his parents said.
On Saturday, for a few hours at least, Tebow helped them forget.
In town to host a training event for members of D1, a sports facility he co-owns in north Tampa, Tebow spent some time on an indoor field with Preston.
As soon as Tebow tossed him the ball, Preston took off — running circles around the championship player. Tebow scooped him up and carried him to the end zone.
Giggling, Preston spiked the ball. Touchdown!
The miniature quarterback took a knee, placed his elbow down and put his fist to his forehead: In the presence of Tebow, Preston Tebowed.
Everyone watching melted.
"That was awesome," Tebow said with a smile. "So good."
Love for Tebow runs in the family. Preston's dad, James Winslow, earned his doctorate at the University of Florida during the same years Tebow helped the Gators win two national championships.
At first, Winslow was wowed by his athleticism. Then he discovered there was something more.
"He is such a nice guy and a good role model," Winslow said.
When Tebow joined the Broncos, Winslow and his wife, Celeste, remained fans. Watching his games on television helped them pass the many hours spent in hospital rooms with Preston.
Soon, Tebow had a new fan.
"(Preston) pretty much thinks Tim Tebow is the only football player who exists," Celeste Winslow said.
When the Winslows learned the doctors could do no more for Preston, they made the decision to have fun.
"We've decided not to ruin the time we have left by being down," James Winslow said.
Tim Tebow became part of that. Several of the Winslows' friends contacted Tebow's agent and team repeatedly, hoping for a chance to connect him with Preston.
A couple of weeks ago, Preston received a call from Tebow. He offered the family tickets to a Broncos football game next season. Celeste Winslow had to decline. The timing wouldn't work, she told him.
So Tebow invited them to Tampa for Saturday's D1 event.
The family travelled from their home in North Carolina and spent more than a half-hour on the field running around and catching passes from Tebow. They sat down with him and talked about football. Preston played against him in a game of Connect Four.
"It was better than we expected," James Winslow said. "He spent so much time with us and was so personable."
Preston, wearing his Broncos Tebow jersey with a newly acquired signature on the back, said he had fun.
"He's usually very shy," James Winslow said. "But he opened right up to him."
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.