Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow knows how to draw a crowd, even in Georgia.
On Thursday, the Denver Broncos quarterback stopped at D1 Sports Savannah to work out with local D1 Sports members. Tebow recently became a co-owner of the exclusive training facility with former University of Georgia player Herschel Walker.
The event was closed to the public, but more than 100 fans clung to the chain-link fence to get a glimpse of Tebow while he did agility and conditioning training on the field outside the gym with Kurt Hester, D1 Sports national director for training.
“You can push him to the limit. He’s not a wimp,” Hester said of training with Tebow in the swamp-like heat. Even with fans screaming and begging for autographs, Tebow maintained focus, something Hester is used to seeing with the 400 NFL players he trains nationwide.
Hester coached Tebow as he stretched, lunged, lifted and sweated to the cheers and shouts of approving fans and the booming sounds of Metallica. After conditioning both inside and outside, Tebow took a moment to speak with the media about why he chose to become a co-owner of the facility, which is part of a Nashville-based company founded by Will Bartholomew that operates 13 training centers throughout the Midwest and Southeast.
“In the offseason, to be able to come and train and get away to different locations, it’s exciting for me because sometimes it is nice to get away from the norm and what you’re used to doing, and also still being able to train. And that makes it extremely nice,” Tebow said. “I loved the philosophy with Kurt. I loved the mentality with Will. And just the opportunity, the facility and how passionate they were about training young men, about training boys and getting people in shape, and overall just improving their mind, body and focus for life was exciting to me, so I was honored when I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Membership to the facility costs $150-$200 a month and draws the likes of professional athletes and serious local athletes who enjoy working out six days a week.
Matt Toy, D1 Sports corporate public relations director, said that although the price is steep, it includes personalized, customized training that is rare in other gyms and also gives professional athletes a bit more privacy.
“All of our co-owners come through once in awhile. They like to work out without all the fanfare,” Toy said.
Tebow alternated between indoor and outdoor exercises for more than three hours, pausing to give short interviews for promotional video footage and coach D1 Sports classes on the field with athletes as young as 7 years old. The NFL player encouraged children to try their best in life and gave them pep talks.
As for the 23-year-old quarterback’s charismatic attitude, Hester said that’s exactly who the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner is, day in and day out.
“He is what he is. It’s a ton of pressure for a human. To live up to be Tim Tebow is probably not a fun day on a daily basis,” he said.
Although Tebow was not supposed to give autographs or meet with fans, he occasionally stopped and shook hands with eager admirers who lined both sides of the fence outside the media area.
One fan, 95-year-old Estelle Hampton, pleaded with D1 Sports staff that she just had to meet Tebow.
“I’m a Gator. I’ve got a car full of Gator stuff,” said Hampton, who was holding a stuffed Gators cheerleader doll. “I’ve got more than I know what to do with.”
Her persistency paid off. Hampton was the only outside fan who was allowed inside the D1 Sports facility to meet with Tebow before the football standout had to catch his flight to Atlanta.
The Gators fan said she loves Tebow and commented that his “parents raised him right.” Her eyes welled with tears as she talked about her love of Gators football and her late husband, who attended the University of Florida. Tebow offered a hug and a smile, took a photo with Hampton and thanked her for coming out before he left for the Savannah airport.
Another fan, Evan Stone, 18, who trains regularly at the facility to keep in shape for his position on his football team at Richmond Hill High School, said it was a dream come true to work out with a professional athlete, but especially with Tim Tebow.
“It’s just cool to go from seeing him on TV to training with him. It makes you realize he’s just a regular guy,” Stone said. “(I’m) not really a Gators fan, just a Tim Tebow fan. That guy’s a hulk.”