CLEARWATER — His fans have come out in droves during Tim Tebow Week in Tampa Bay, more than doubling the average in Clearwater and Tampa Bay. And they've come adorned with jerseys commemorating the many phases of Tebow's athletic career — including at least one phase that happened only in a fan's mind.
Meet some fans and their Tebow merchandise:
LINDA FIFE, TAMPA
Like many Florida residents, Linda Fife began following Tim Tebow when he played for the Gators. But when the 60-year-old Tampa resident recently went to buy a Tebow Florida jersey, she said it wasn't available online anymore. So she did the next best thing: "I found this at Target or Walmart, and I had them put (the name and number) on." The whole thing cost less than $25, she said. Fife came to Steinbrenner Field last week to see Tebow face the Yankees, and while he wasn't in the lineup, she was happy to see him enter later as a defensive replacement. "He's not out for the glory of this, and we need more people like that."
JEREMY SOKOL, TAMPA
Jeremy Sokol is from New York and doesn't follow the Mets. When the 25-year-old Tampa resident bought a Tebow Mets jersey on clearance, it wasn't with minor-league baseball in mind. "I bought it to wear to Gator games, actually," he said. "I was going to all of the College World Series games, and the regionals." The color scheme aligns with Florida, he said, a fit for Tebow teams past and present.
TREVOR MACDONALD AND RACHEL ILLGAN, LAKELAND
Trevor MacDonald isn't a Jets fan. "Whenever he got on a team, I just bought (jerseys)," the 17-year-old Lakeland resident said. He purchased two "the day he got signed, pretty much," spending more than $100 total. One went to 16-year-old Lakeland resident Rachael Illgan, who accompanied MacDonald to the game Monday at Spectrum Field. They're both Tebow fans, hoping to get his autograph on a photo of him diving across the goal line as a Gator.
CHARLES AND ANNIE BOTTOMS, TAMPA
This isn't Charles Bottoms' first Tim Tebow jersey. The 68-year-old Tampa resident bought one when Tebow played for the Gators. Got Tebow to sign it. During tailgates after Florida games, Bottoms said Tebow would occasionally stop by to say hello. Bottoms wore the Tebow Broncos jersey to Steinbrenner Field "only because I didn't want to wear my good Tebow one." He isn't surprised Tebow made it to the Florida State League: "He's got more willpower than anybody I've ever met in my life." His wife, Annie, has held onto her Tebow Florida jersey, purchased during the Gators' 2007 championship run. The 70-year-old Tampa resident noted that his name wasn't on the jersey, as NCAA rules prohibited it, but she made sure to buy one with the number 15. She wears it all the time, and she said she's impressed with how well it's held up.
RYAN ROMANO | Times
DAVID CROUCH, CLEARWATER
David Crouch's daughter and son-in-law went to Florida at the same time as Tebow, which drew the 55-year-old Clearwater resident to him. When Crouch's favorite NFL team signed Tebow in 2013, he had a friend in Massachusettts by a Tebow Patriots' shirsey and ship it to him. Since it was the preseason, Tebow didn't have his iconic 15, and he wouldn't get a chance to wear it: New England cut Tebow before the regular season. Crouch said he wasn't too encouraged by that. "If you can't find a job with Bill Belichick, you're not going to find a job anywhere."
PHIL YUREK, CLEARWATER
Phil Yureka went to Florida before Tebow. "He's genuine to me," said Phil Yurek, "unlike a lot of things in this world." Since Columbia was the first stop on Tebow's pro baseball journey, the 50-year-old Clearwater resident pounced on the chance to get a Fireflies shirsey, although he said he has no connection to South Carolina. And a Tebow St. Lucie shirsey? "Maybe after another beer I'll shell out that money."
ERIC ARMETTA, CLEARWATER
When he was in high school, Eric Armetta saw the ESPN documentary Tim Tebow: The Chosen One, about Tebow's days at Nease High School in Jacksonville. Armetta was hooked, following Tebow through his college and NFL career. In 2010, Armetta bought a custom Tampa Bay Rays jersey as "kind of a joke," wearing it to Tropicana Field in 2010 and 2011 but putting it away after that. Armetta dusted it off Tuesday when he came to Spectrum Field to see Tebow play baseball for the first time. "I'm rooting for him. Whether he makes it to the majors and is successful is a different story."
Contact Ryan Romano at [email protected] Follow @triple_r_