Jack Dempsey, Associated Press
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) celebrates with fans after the Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-23 in overtime of an NFL wild card playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, in Denver.

Tim Tebow may be the best thing going for the NFL.

Many have made fun of him and his ostentatious religious mindset: First as a collegian and now as a professional football player.

But now it has found center stage and it has spiced up the boardwalk to the Super Bowl.

Are the Denver Broncos where they are primarily because of the leadership, charisma, attitude and faith of a guy so un-NFL-like? Is Tebow's approach to the game, which takes us back to the days of "Leave It to Beaver," too corny? And does it work?

Yes, it appears so.

The media, NFL nation and many so-called gatekeepers around the nation made it popular to make fun of Tebow with his references to God, his miniature prayers and bows in thanks towards heaven, his wearing of his faith on his sleeves on a daily basis and his silent prayer bow on one knee.

But folks, Tebow has worked.

Many said he'd be a monumental failure and the Broncos wasted a 25th pick.

Now they're apologizing.

It may not get Denver to the Super Bowl, or even past the New England Patriots, but it's carried the franchise this far — so much further than many experts expected this season — and it has Bronco fans in a frenzy.

Who thought a single Denver football personality could ever do this in the post-Elway era?

When Tebow fired that bomb on the first play of overtime against Pittsburgh last Sunday, it was a sustaining moment for many, as it should be.

This is movie-script stuff.

There is a real power in belief, teamwork, chemistry, friendship. And there is a mastery, sway and electricity in a collective group coming together to get something done when they are all on the same page.

This is what you get in Tebow.

It's real. It is tangible, and when it lifts, it is extremely evident.

Tebow has been made fun of. Folks say he's cheesy. Some say he's fake and hokey. Or they tire of his platitudinous and schmaltzy way. Many dislike his religious attitude he unashamedly displays on and off the field.

But whatever Tebow has, works.

And that's what's made the end to this NFL season so interesting: That corny works.

It is something guys like HBO's faith-hater comedian Bill Maher will always struggle to understand or grasp. To his ilk, you tear down ideology and make fun of religion. Devotion to a higher power is one-liner fodder.

It may not always produce wins, but Tebow's way has created a bond, real trust and chemistry on the Bronco squad.

After that thrilling finish to Denver's first-round playoff victory over the Steelers, Denver coach John Fox uttered these words:

"This is why you do it. It's not about money. It's not about whatever. It's moments like tonight."

Not about money?

And there's this from teammate Andre' Goodman, a Bronco cornerback:

"Tim has a presence about him that I've never been around before. I've played with some Hall of Fame players before that weren't close to the aura that this guy has."

That aura is what it's all about.

What's fun about this Tebow stuff? Well, it works among grown men salted by money and fame. It's a throwback to "Win one for the Gipper," and what college sports used to embody back when cheerleaders had beehive hairdos, tickets were a couple bucks, and people who played the game had a ton of fun for the sake of the game.

It's fun because we don't know how far Tebow and Denver will take this thing in the playoffs, but we're seeing Tebow repeat something we saw in college: His passion and how it catches on with his team is a reminder of what his passion brought at Florida under Urban Meyer.

You may remember "The Promise" made by Tebow after the Gators lost at home to Mississippi on Sept. 27, 2008. Meyer put Tebow's words on a plaque outside the football facility within a few months.

It reads:

"To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I'm sorry. I'm extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done before.

"I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.

"You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.

"God Bless."

Florida went on to defeat Oklahoma, 24-17, in the BCS Championship game.

Back then, a teammate, linebacker Brandon Spikes said, "He just said it and we got it done. He was a prophet."

I don't think the Broncos can beat the Patriots. They'll be underdogs on everybody's list who knows anything about football.

But because Denver has Tebow, and there's something inexplicable about the chemistry he brings, it makes watching the playoffs a kind of rite of passage with a lot of charm.

I love it.

So does America.

The Broncos' 29-23 win over Pittsburgh was the most-watched TV program since the Super Bowl last February.

Email: dharmon@desnews.com Twitter: Harmonwrites