02/17/2012 09:45 pm ET

Jeremy Lin, Knicks Guard, Joins Fernando Valenzuela, Kurt Warner, John Starks As Unexpected Stars (PHOTOS)

As Linsanity swept through the sports world over the past few weeks, many rushed to compare Jeremy Lin's unexpected rise to Tim Tebow's breakout success with the Denver Broncos.

Off the field, the comparisons make sense as both players -- who are each devout Christians -- generated tremendous fan interest and sparked media frenzies. Once we turn our attention to their respective paths to stardom, however the stories seem far less similar. After all, Tebow is arguably one of the most decorated college football players of all time. He won a Heisman Trophy and two national championships during his time at the University of Florida. Despite concerns about his throwing mechanics, he was still drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round (25th overall).

On the other hand, few sports fans outside of Cambridge and the Bay Area even knew who Lin was three weeks ago. He went undrafted out of college and even his most ardent supporters, hardly guessed that he was capable of taking the entire NBA by storm. The colleges that passed on him before he landed at Harvard didn't think so. Certainly, the Golden State Warriors weren't too high on him as they cut him after using him only sparingly as a rookie. The Houston Rockets? They gave him a quick look but cut him, too.

Whereas Broncos fans were actively cheering for Tebow to be designated the team's starting quarterback, Knicks fans thought they were waiting for Baron Davis to return from injury when Lin emerged from the bench. That Tebow's success surprised his critics is no small part to his story. But the fact that Tebow had so many public critics before he got a start under center with the Broncos goes a long way toward severing the connections that so many are trying to make between the two. Even those folks who suspect Lin is a flash in the pan didn't have a clue who he was just a short time ago. Before that nationally televised 38-point explosion against the Lakers, Kobe Bryant was far from the only person who didn't have a clue what Linsanity was all about.

So who should we compare Jeremy Lin to? Here are some athletes who really came out of nowhere to take their respective sports by storm. Will Lin's unexpected rise take him as far as Kurt Warner? Will he continue to be a key role player like fellow Knick John Starks? Or will his success prove as unsustainable as the early returns from Mark Fidrych?