Tebowmania" and "Linsanity" are catching up with him fast, but NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson is still leading the field as America’s Most Influential Athlete, according to Forbes.
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The 36-year-old perennial Sprint Cup Series champ, whose talent and guy-next-door demeanor endears him to fans, emerged on top of a host of NFL quarterbacks and other elite athletes to take the premier spot on the annual public poll for the second year in a row.
Former Broncos signal caller and current New York Jet, Tim Tebow, is closing fast however, rising from No. 10 last year to No. 2 this year after capturing the nation’s attention with his unorthodox skills and his frequent and very public demonstrations of his religious devotion.
He was joined in an amazing rise in prominence by Jeremy Lin, who came from nowhere to slip into the top 10 for the first time. The New York Knicks guard, whose rise from obscurity to popularity became synonymous with the term "Linsanity," is incredibly the only NBA star in the top 10.
The list was dominated by NFL quarterbacks, including Tebow, Eli and Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
"The NFL is just killing it, the league is now part of the American landscape," said Stephen Master, vice president of sports for Nielsen, which co-runs the survey the list is based on.
Among those who dropped out of the top 10 from last year were driver Jeff Gordon, swimmer Michael Phelps, footballer Troy Polamalu, and basketballers LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal.
Candidates were limited to pro athletes who are currently active — hence O’Neal dropping off the list — and who score at least 20 percent "awareness" with the general public in the poll, which measures their likeability and whether they are considered influential to marketers.