Football sensation Tim Tebow may not take the field this season, but he could soon enter a different kind of arena: politics.
The New York Jets backup quarterback told ESPN he was considering a career in politics after his gridiron glory fades. When asked about the possibility, Tebow said 'making a difference' would be his goal after his playing days were over.
"I haven't ruled [politics] out," Tebow said. "It won't be anytime soon in my future, but it'll be something I'll at least look at and consider one day."
If Tebow were to decide to step into the political arena, he would have an upper hand on most, says Brian Hughes, a GOP strategist and former adviser to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
"Many of the political newcomers have to face an uphill battle with name ID, so Tebow would have an advantage with that," Hughes says. "Beyond his celebrity status I think he emulates the values a lot of conservative voters look for. ... He's made some clear statements about his faith and social convictions."
Tebow has rubbed shoulders with some prominent Florida politicians as well, including Scott, Hughes says. Tebow could certainly do well in a regional or congressional race, but given his celebrity status and genuine persona, he could possibly compete in a statewide or even national race down the road, adds Hughes.
"He's been introduced to and gotten to know some elected officials and is tremendously popular in Florida," says Hughes. "Any ... consultant would love to work with him as a candidate."
Tebow would not be the first football star to make the transition to politics. North Carolina Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler quarterbacked at the University of Tennessee and Washington Redskins before entering Congress in 2006.
Other famous football politicians include former President Gerald Ford and former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp. Two NFL alums represented Oklahoma on the Hill recently: former Republican Rep. Steve Largent, who starred for the Seattle Seahawks, and former Republican Rep. J.C. Watts, a star Oklahoma Sooner who became the first African American elected to statewide office in the state. All of those gridiron politicians were conservatives, with Shuler being the only Democrat, though he opposes abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and gun control and is a member of the conservative Blue Dog caucus.
Given his widespread name-recognition—he has his own verb, "Tebowing," and meme, "Tebowmania"—and reputation for faith and personal conviction, politics would seem to be a good fit. Several politicians have attempted to tap into Tebow's reputation already.
In a televised debate during the GOP presidential primary, Texas Gov. Rick Perry compared himself favorably to Tebow, who had recently led his NFL team to several come-from-behind wins.
"There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn't going to be a very good NFL quarterback," Perry said. "There are people that stood up and said, well, he doesn't have the right throwing mechanism, or he's not playing the game right. And he won two national championships [in college], and that looked pretty good. We were the national champions in job creation back in Texas. And so am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses."
Last month, in discussing Tebow's recent move to the New York Jets, President Barack Obama spoke about the football phenom in a way that wouldn't seem out of place if he were referring to a down-ticket Congressional candidate.
"Tebow seems to be a wonderful young man and he's got just a great winning attitude," Obama said. "He really steps up when things count."