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Mr. Popular: Tebow tops poll of most loved pro athletes

Tim Tebow already is the most polarizing figure in the NFL. For that designation, no survey is necessary. But is he the most popular?

According to ESPN Sports Poll, the answer is yes.

The Broncos quarterback was recognized by 3 percent of Americans surveyed as their favorite active professional athlete, placing him above Kobe Bryant (2 percent), Aaron Rodgers (1.9 percent), Peyton Manning (1.8 percent) and Tom Brady (1.5 percent) in the Top 5.

The December poll included 1,502 interviews from "a nationally representative sample of Americans 12 and older." Since ESPN Sports Poll debuted in 1994, no pro athlete has come close to matching Tebow's rapid rush to prominence.

"To put this in perspective, Tim Tebow rose to the top before the end of his second pro season. It took Tiger Woods three years, LeBron James eight years and Kobe Bryant 11 years," said Rich Luker, founder and director of the ESPN Sports Poll. "I think we may be at the front end of a new era in sports stars."

It's up to you to decide how much stock to put in this survey. It's worth nothing that according to its website, ESPN Sports Poll is "the standard for sports intelligence in the industry." A bold claim to be sure, but italics certainly amp up the credibility.

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