Quinton Carter knew Tim Tebow as a foe not so long ago.
Now, he's a friend.
And here you thought you already knew everything Tebow could do.
Only three Januarys ago, Carter and his Oklahoma teammates chased Tebow around the South Florida sod. Didn't end so well for the Sooners. The Gators won the national championship, and their arm-chomping, always-kneeling quarterback who was praised more than Jehovah himself became a Sooner enemy.
How about Tebowed? Folks around here were Tebowed out after that.
But this January, there's at least one Sooner who has nothing but praise for Tebow. Carter, now a rookie safety with the Denver Broncos, can't say enough about what the quarterback has done for the team.
“We started winning; it's really that simple,” Carter said. “He knows how to win game. He's a big-time leader on the team.
“We all rally behind him.”
Including the former Sooner safety.
Carter finds himself not only in the Broncos' starting lineup but also in the AFC divisional playoffs. Saturday night, it's Denver vs. New England. Tebow vs. Brady. Josh McDaniels' old team vs. Josh McDaniels' new team.
It's the game of the weekend.
“The way our season has been going is really like a dream,” Carter said. “To come in here and be this far and playing games like that, it's like I'm dreaming.”
And Carter knows he and the rest of the Broncos wouldn't be there if not for Tebow.
Three months ago, they were the longest of playoff long shots. They lost four of their first five games. They had little life offensively. They put more on the defense than it could handle.
It was a disaster.
Then during an off week before Denver traveled to Miami, Broncos coach John Fox adopted a survival-of-the-fittest approach. Every position was open. Every job was up for grabs. It was a desperate move by a desperate coach.
But it was during that week that Carter secured a spot in the starting lineup.
A consensus All-American who was known for his consistent, steady play at OU, he'd played since the beginning of the season but his responsibilities grew each week. He went from a situational player, being part of the dime package when the Broncos put six defensive backs on the field, to a guy who spelled the starters in the base defense.
Finally, he landed in the starting lineup.
His first start coincided with the start of the Broncos revival and a sports revelation.
That day, you see, was when Tebow took over.
And thus the magic began. Denver beat Miami 18-15 in overtime with the most unbelievable comeback.
(Well, it was unbelievable then. Now, we know it's just what Tebow does.)
Down 15-0 with less than three minutes left in the game, Tebow threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran in a two-point conversion to get the Broncos to overtime. Never mind that he was 4 of 14 for 40 yards and had been sacked five times when the Broncos started their comeback.
Denver won six of its next seven games, and almost overnight, the Broncos went from an NFL afterthought to the talk of the league. Heck, there was no bigger story in sports, and that included the Green Bay Packers, who then looked like a serious threat to the 1972 Miami Dolphins' undefeated season.
Tebow Mania took over the airwaves, the interwebs, the headlines.
Not that Carter noticed.
“I really don't pay attention to it,” he said. “I know our next opponent and getting ready for our next opponent.”
Now, don't mistake that answer for animosity toward Tebow. There's no hostility. There's no resentment.
Quite the opposite.
As a young player, Carter knows how tough it is to be a starter in the NFL. Then to rally an entire franchise? Then to be the center of the sports universe?
He can't help but appreciate Tebow.
“You just look at everything from his high school career to his college career to now — people shouldn't be surprised,” Carter said. “You look back, and what can you say about him?
“Who cares about his throwing motion when you're winning games?”
Carter sure doesn't.
A bit of that Tebow Magic might even be rubbing off on him. In the Broncos' overtime playoff win against the Steelers, he had one of the best games of his career. He notched five tackles and picked off Ben Roethlisberger. That pick was not only Carter's first career interception but also the first postseason interception for a Denver rookie in the franchise's history.
Now come the Patriots in prime time on Saturday.
“I know what it's going to be like,” Carter said. “It's going to be crazy.”
It usually is when you're on Team Tebow.
Quinton Carter has a front-row seat to Tebow Mania, and he loves what he sees.