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"I love that boy. ... He's like my third son," said Sandoval, who is not a regular member of the church but wasn't going to miss a chance to hear Tebow speak. A self-described "lifelong Broncos fan," Sandoval said she became a Jets fan because of Tebow. The quarterback led the Broncos to the playoffs last season and was acquired by the Jets in a trade March 21.
"Everything about this young man's extraordinary life is special," Sandoval said.
Amanda O'Hara drove about 100 miles from San Antonio on Saturday and got to the church about 4:30 a.m. "to be one of the first ones here."
"I only got about four hours sleep, I was so excited," O'Hara said. "He doesn't hide who he is. Parents should see him as a role model."
The crow included people dressed in Easter bunny costumes and one person dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo. About an hour before the service, Elmo dropped to a knee with a toddler boy to mimic Tebow's prayer pose.
Media access to the event was tightly controlled inside the roped off field. Reporters and photographers were required to have an escort when walking through the crowd before the service. Television cameras were allowed to record only a portion of Tebow's speech, and no live video streaming of the service was permitted.
Church officials initially expected up to 20,000 and said Tebow's appearance on Easter Sunday was coincidental. Church spokeswoman Tara Wall said it was Tebow who reached out to Champion with a request to appear and Sunday was the best date available.
Mike Benaglio and his wife, Debbie, sat on a blanket.
"I'm a fan of any pro athlete who stands up for his faith," he said. "We're thrilled to be part of this. It's not about football. Whatever gets more people over to the cross, I'm in favor of."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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