ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It might be a tough economy but there's one product these days that has sales soaring.
No. 15 jerseys.
They were seen all over when Tim Tebow was a reserve quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Now that he's been named the starter, there's been even more of a run on them.
"It's going to be like another home game for us," Broncos defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, who played with Tebow at Florida in 2006, vowed about Denver's game Sunday at Miami, when the Dolphins are honoring the Tebow-led 2008 national champion Gators. "Everybody wants to be out there just to see (Tebow). So you'll see a lot of Denver (No. 15) jerseys out there."
Well, there also will be plenty of Gators No. 15 jerseys, although those might look a bit more worn.
Since Tebow was named Denver's starter Oct. 11, the attendance-starved Dolphins have sold about 10,000 more tickets for Sunday. The game, which matches the 1-4 Broncos against 0-5 Miami, might even end up selling out.
One could thank Tebow for that. The second-year man was named the starter after he came off the bench in the second half Oct. 9 against San Diego and nearly led the Broncos back from a 26-10 fourth-quarter deficit before they fell 26-24.
In the movie "This is Spinal Tap," a rock star brags about how his amplifier's volume goes to 11, rather than 10. Looks like the Chargers game pushed Tebow's popularity to 11 in Denver.
"It's wild," said Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker. "I've never seen it ever before in my life. I remember, for example, (after the Chargers game), we all were in the parking lot kind of hanging out and he's the last one out. There's this uproar of fans and flashes and stuff. It's crazy to see the following he has."
Now, Tebow will return to the state where it all began. After starring at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., he was a reserve on the 2006 Florida national title team before becoming a starter and winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy and the 2008 national crown with a 24-14 win over Oklahoma at Sun Life Stadium.
"I'm very excited about it," said Tebow, who also led Nease to a state title as a senior at Sun Life, said Wednesday at the Broncos' training facility. "It is a fun stadium, and I have enjoyed being there. That's for sure. So it will be a lot of fun going back. There's really no added pressure."
Tebow, a first-round pick by the Broncos in 2010, actually played his first NFL game Sept. 12, 2010 in his home area of Jacksonville, carrying two times for two yards as a reserve quarterback in a 24-17 loss to the Jaguars. Tebow did start the final three games of last season, mopping up a 4-12 Denver season.
But this move to start Tebow seems different, with Kyle Orton having again been benched due to losing. Whether Tebow becomes a long-term piece for the Broncos remains to be seen, but this looks to be his big chance.
"I feel very comfortable with this offense," Tebow said. "I feel very comfortable with this game plan (Tebow plans) to go out there and play my heart out and play my hardest and on the field try to lead those guys."
Denver players believe Tebow, who won one of his three rookie starts, is more ready this time. Last season, Tebow completed 41 of 82 passes for 654 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions and ran 43 times for 227 yards and six touchdowns.
Tebow nearly rescued the Broncos against the Chargers by completing 4 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown and rushing seven times for 37 yards and a touchdown. And his teammates could understand him in the huddle.
"He's getting the play calls called out right," Decker said. "Last year, he kind of mumbled his words and we weren't sure how to line up. So he's doing better calming down and making sure we line up and making the right reads. He's not making mistakes.
"Last year, at the end of the season, he got so excited sometimes you couldn't hear him. It was like, Hold on, buddy, slow down, we've got to be able to line up and hear the play.' So he's doing a better job of calming himself down, because he's such a fiery guy He was calm (against the Chargers)."
The fans weren't. Even though the Broncos lost, it almost felt like a victory.
Now, Tebow will be back Sunday in Florida, where Denver running back Lance Ball said "there's going to more Tebow and Broncos fans than Miami fans." Evan a University of Miami guy figures the game being in South Florida won't tone down Tebowmania too much.
"He had a great college career, so it's a good thing to honor him," said Broncos running back Willis McGahee, who helped the Hurricanes to the 2001 national title. "He won the Heisman. He won the national championship. He played at Florida when they were winning. He's the man. (Tebow's popularity) crosses over to the NFL until something bad happens. But, until then, he's the man."
If anything bad happens to Tebow, it's highly unlikely it would be of his doing. The deeply devout Christian has an image as clean as the silverware at Buckingham Palace.
That's part of the reason for the popularity of Tebow, who does ample volunteer work. He transcends football.
"There are, hopefully, some non-football fans that are fans of mine," Tebow said. "Hopefully, because I try to be a good person outside of these facilities. I just try to be someone that is caring and puts others first and tries to be a good role model for kids. And that's my ultimate goal. Because, at the end of the day, that's so much more important than football.
"We're trying to win a game and, yes, a lot of people care about it. And all (the media that was) here (Wednesday) because of it. But, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. But if you can take your popularity from football and make a difference with it and help people, then ultimately you're doing something worthwhile. And then your life has some significance because just playing football, there's not that much significance behind it."
While it's understandable where Tebow is coming from, Broncos and Gators fans know he's obviously downplaying his role on the football field. Still, if Tebow were a doctor, one with No. 15 on it probably would be a high-selling smock.