JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) – Living with acclaim and accolades could easily overwhelm an 18-year-old recruited by the nation’s top college football teams. His decision to commit to the University of Florida recently pre-empted local television news programming and created a media frenzy throughout the nation.
By Barbara Denman
Florida Baptist Convention
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) – Living with acclaim and
accolades could easily overwhelm an 18-year-old recruited by the
nation’s top college football teams. His decision to commit to the
University of Florida recently pre-empted local television news
programming and created a media frenzy throughout the nation.
But when Tim Tebow was asked to recount the record-setting statistics
of his high school career, the Florida High School Player of the Year
said he could not.
“I’m sure someone kept the stats, but I haven’t kept
track,” Tebow, a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.,
Nor does he surf the Internet, where dozens of
stories and scouting reports have been written about the talented young
athlete. Instead the dual-threat quarterback for St. Augustine’s Nease
High School has been taught that honoring God is more important than
Perhaps nothing demonstrated his athletic prowess
more than leading the Nease team in the Class 4A state championship
game against two-time defending champion Seffner’s Armwood High School.
Tebow passed for 237 yards and four touchdowns and
rushed for 183 yards and two more touchdowns to win state honors. When
the coach needed another defensive player, the 6’3” and 217-pound
quarterback and former defensive end stepped in to assist the team.
That performance capped off his senior year during
which Tebow, one of four finalists in Parade Magazine’s All-American
High School Player of the Year contest, threw for 3,442 yards and 34
touchdowns, plus rushed for 1,045 yards and 21 touchdowns.
His high school career set new state records – 9,940 yards passing,
13,050 yards total offense and 159 touchdowns that won the attention of
sports critics and college coaches nationwide.
In January, Tebow enrolled as a freshman at the
University of Florida, having a 3.5 grade point average and attaining
the college-required SAT score in the ninth grade. He started training
the day he arrived.
As he enters the adulating world of college
football, his parents believe they have prepared him for this new phase
“We had to start when he was very young,” Pam Tebow
said, with Scripture memorization and “emphasizing humility and
“We kept telling him that he could not praise
himself but wait for others to do it and that he couldn’t talk about
himself,” she said.
They often quoted Proverbs 27:2, which says, “Let
another man praise thee and not thine own mouth, a stranger and not
thine own lips.”
Tebow’s parents also encouraged him to pick a hero
who modeled similar traits of humility and modesty. Perhaps not
surprisingly, he chose former Gator quarterback and Heisman winner
Danny Wuerffel as that hero.
Tebow also was discouraged from reading his own press clippings.
“It’s all a part of keeping him grounded,” his mother said.
His pastor, Jerry Vines, believes Tebow is up for his future challenges at the University of Florida.
“There is great pressure in college football,” Vines
said. “I believe Tim Tebow has been spiritually prepared by his family
to handle that pressure. Of course, the difficulties will be there. But
I am confident he will maintain his Christian ideals in the college
football arena and will lead many others to a personal faith in Jesus
Knowing that college football will give him an even
larger platform for being a role model, Tebow has his own formula for
staying true to his convictions.
“I have an awesome family and with two brothers and
two sisters, they never let me get cocky,” he said. “I also plan to
have my quiet time every day. I try to stay humble and realize that
just because you play football you’re no more important than anyone
Each summer, Tebow returns to the Philippines, where
he was born, to lead evangelistic crusades and minister in orphanages.
Such a commitment reflects his parents’ 20 years service as
missionaries in the Far East country.
Teaching their children to honor God played a
consuming role in Pam and Bob Tebow’s decision to homeschool their five
children, even before the concept was popular.
“If I could get my kids to the age of 25 and they
know God and serve God and had character qualities that pleased God,
then I knew God would be happy and I would be happy,” Bob Tebow said.
“The only way I could do that was to do it myself, commit to God that
this is my job. Traditional academics had to take a back seat to God’s
Word and character building. You can be well educated in the world’s
eyes and still be a sorry person. You can graduate with degrees and
have no character. Character defines who you are.”
Tebow’s older siblings are involved in ministries of their own.
Although the Tebows live in Duval County, Tebow participated in a
neighboring St. John’s County high school’s athletic program as a
homeschooled student after the Nease football coach was willing to give
him an opportunity to play quarterback.
To qualify to play in the St. John’s County school
district, the Tebows rented an apartment near the school and placed
their family farm up for sale. Tebow studied in that apartment each
day, beginning each morning with Bible study. The farm never sold.
“We would have sold our home if we needed to,” Pam
Tebow said. “We were willing to make that sacrifice. We have made
sacrifices for all of our children.”
The left hander’s gridiron feats were the subject of
a nationally-televised ESPN documentary called “The Chosen One.” In the
documentary that covered his senior year, as well as in other articles
and stories, Tebow’s talent on the field is paralleled with his
Christian faith off the field.
The documentary begins with Tebow’s father reading
Proverbs 27:2 and explaining that the 18-year-old was named for the
Apostle Paul’s young friend, Timothy, a name that means “honoring God.”
Throughout the one-hour program, Tebow is seen
studying the Bible as part of his homeschool curriculum and devotional
reading. The football team is shown praying before and after practice.
“After spending a lot of time with Timmy and his
family, when I thought about the elements of their life and saw how
their faith leads them from start to finish, I made the decision that
it must be heavily based on their faith and beliefs,” ESPN producer Ken
Murrah explained in a telephone interview.
After almost a year filming Tebow’s senior season in
different settings, Murrah said, “I knew he was a good football player
in his strength, size and unique skills, but I was amazed at his
natural ability and maturity to speak publicly, go into schools, be
comfortable in being a role model and talk so openly about his faith.”
The Tebows agreed to do the documentary only if “in
the natural course of events it showed our faith in Jesus as it is,”
Bob Tebow said, adding, “we were not looking for a platform to preach.
While football was the vehicle, our whole point in life is to honor the
“I believe the witness of that documentary will have
an impact all over the nation,” Vines said. “I have said publicly that
every youth group and every high school football team in the nation
should see that documentary.”
(For information on ordering a DVD copy of the ESPN
documentary please send an e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org.)