The headline in the Denver Post last week stated: “Van Pelt — I coulda been a Tebow.”
That was about as true as a wobbly pass, Bradlee Van Pelt said. He never implied that he could have become the media phenomenon that is Tim Tebow, the controversial quarterback of the Denver Broncos and extraordinary do-gooder. In his interview with the Post, Van Pelt said, “I could see similarities with myself when I watch him play.”
Van Pelt was a quarterback who ran like a bull at San Marcos High and Colorado State. The Broncos drafted him in 2004, but he never got much of an opportunity to prove himself in two NFL seasons, playing behind Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler. He frankly conceded that his passes, like Tebow’s, were not always on target.
Both men are big for the position — the 6′2″ Van Pelt played at 220 pounds, and Tebow is listed at 6′3″, 245 pounds. “I remember seeing this picture [of Tebow] in GQ Magazine, and I was thinking, ‘That guy looked like me,’” Van Pelt said. But looking like a bodybuilder can be a detriment, Van Pelt said.
“I think he’s a little too big. Speaking as another big quarterback, I think you’d find that as you lose weight that you become more flexible, that you have a little different whip to your arm. Drew Brees, Tom Brady … you never see them bare-chested. Not because they’re [flabby], but because they’re not anything flattering. [Tebow] has won, and at the end of the day, it’s about winning. But I think he has a lot of work to do to hone his skills.”
After his stint in Denver, Van Pelt was a third-stringer with the Houston Texans, had a failed tryout with the Broncos at safety — a position at which his father, the late Brad Van Pelt, was an All-Pro with the New York Giants — and then he was a starting quarterback for two European teams, the Bergamo Lions of Italy and the Leicester Falcons of the British American Football Association. Van Pelt ended his playing career in 2010 as the MVP of the Falcons.
Because players in the British league pay their own way, Van Pelt needed a job. He caught on with Sky Sports, a London-based pay-TV outlet, as a studio analyst for NFL broadcasts. “They call me a pundit,” Van Pelt said. “It’s a lot harder than you think. It’s very easy to sit back and watch a game when I’m loose. But when they put crap in your ear, makeup on your face, your hair’s firm — everything about that gets stiff to me, so I start acting stiff. It’s great public-speaking practice. But it’s not my life.”
Van Pelt has moved back to Santa Barbara and currently works as a distributor for Ergomotion, a company that manufactures adjustable foundations for mattresses. Sky Sports liked his work well enough to fly him to London for several NFL weekends during the 2011 season, and he will be in the studio this Sunday, commenting on the AFC and NFC championship games. It will be a late-night gig in England. Here is Van Pelt’s take:
Baltimore at New England (noon PST): “Baltimore’s going to have its hands full against one of the most productive, explosive offensive units. You talk about the tight-end combination, [Aaron] Hernandez and [Rob] Gronkowski. These guys are like a double-headed snake. If one doesn’t get you, the other does. They split out wide, run out of the backfield. It’s always impressive to see what [New England coach] Bill Belichick comes up with. The Patriots would have to beat themselves. Of course, [quarterback] Tom Brady is pretty cool under pressure. Rarely does he get rattled.”
New York Giants at San Francisco (3:30 p.m.): “I wish I was going to be at that game. I’m not a diehard Giants fan [because of his father’s connection to the team], but not only are the Giants playing well right now, they just came off the high of beating the Packers at Lambeau Field. They went on the road, they beat the defending [Super Bowl] champion, and now they’re going to San Francisco, which I don’t think is on a par with Green Bay. The weather’s not going to affect [the Giants]. They are not a dome team as you find New Orleans. These guys are rough and ready. They’ve played in cold weather. They’ve played in wind. I don’t know what the 49ers can produce in terms of a home-field advantage that the Giants have not already prevailed against. The NFC West was a very weak division this year. The Giants do not come from a weak division. They had to win three straight games to get into the playoffs. The 49ers had a tough game against the Saints. The Giants manhandled the Packers. I wouldn’t want to be playing the New York Football Giants right now.”
Van Pelt added, “Even if I’m wrong, I want to see a good game.” He attended the wild-card playoff at Denver, when Tebow and the Broncos stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. “I told all my Denver fans, I just hope it’s a good game. They said, ‘No, we want a victory.’ I said, If you knew it was going to be a victory, you wouldn’t have been here. You would have gone somewhere else. You come here because you want the excitement.”
The playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl are the best, Van Pelt said, because “everybody’s playing to win. If you’re conservative, you’re out the door. In the Super Bowl, sometimes teams play not to lose. They don’t take too many chances because they don’t want to risk getting blown out.”
More like this story
For more sports, including a weekly highlight schedule, see independent.com/sports.