Once upon a time there were larger-than-life sports heroes like Chip Hilton and Bronc Burnett.

They were firm-jawed ideals, hard-working, righteous and infallible. They were creations of fiction to inspire young readers.

Tim Tebow could have stepped from the pages of an adolescent football novel. His seemingly too-good-to-be-true story of glory on the field and purity away from it recently had a 10-week run on the New York Times bestseller list, for nonfiction.

Embrace or not his message of faith, family and football, the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion at the University of Florida has etched his place as an American sports icon — and he’s barely 24. There are many skeptics about his ability to succeed as an NFL quarterback, but there is no doubt that Tebow mania is a force, and it’s amping up again.

It will converge on Sun Life Stadium on Sunday when Tebow makes his first start of the season at quarterback for the Broncos against the Dolphins. He will have support from Florida fans present for the controversial celebration of the national championship the Gators won at the stadium in January 2009.

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