I’ve been watching – and rooting for – Tim Tebow since he stepped foot on Florida Field in 2006.
He electrified the fan base, galvanized the team, and was catapulted into the national spotlight for both his football prowess and his unabashed walk of faith.
Tebow was beloved by Gator Nation, and even die-hard rivals — who readily dissed the 6’3” phenom — likely had some measure of respect for the guy.
It was during Number 15’s collegiate glory years that my affection began – both as a football fan and woman of faith. He was humble, deflected praise, and demonstrated love for his community and his fellow man. Tebow oozed positivity and graciousness both on and off the field. His athletic accomplishments were remarkable and he achieved glory attained by few.
But, even though I cheered for his success and donned his numbered jersey, I could not relate to him. Not even a little bit.
I will never receive the most coveted award in college football.
I will not break athletic records or see my name emblazoned on the back of a jersey.
I will never hear the chants of adoring fans or start a cultural phenomenon on bended knee.
(It’s probably safe to say, neither will you.)
Back in the day Tebow impressed me, but he didn’t encourage me. I admired his accomplishments, but they didn’t inspire me.
In the years since his Gator days, I followed his quest to be in the National Football League…and listened as the naysayers and pundits weighed in on all-things-Tebow. I cheered with hope at each team-signing and spread my allegiance around the league: Broncos.Jets.Patriots.Eagles.
I watched his uphill battle, his dogged determination and single-minded focus to “remain in relentless pursuit of continuing this lifelong dream of becoming an NFL quarterback.”
….Relentless pursuit, even after getting the boot from three teams; relentless, even after being told he doesn’t have what it takes and that he’ll never measure up. Relentless, even in the wake of detractors who amassed to scoff and dismiss. Relentless, in the face of failure and waning hope.
Now that’s a Tim I can relate to.
I have known discouragement; I’ve seen dreams deferred and laid to rest. I have felt undervalued and misunderstood; I’ve been heartbroken and dismayed. I have struggled, failed, fallen, and not measured up.
(It’s probably safe to say, you have, too.)
I gained more respect for Tebow in the highs and lows of his meandering journey than I ever had when he was at the summit of his collegiate success. His struggles are universal and I can relate – more than a little bit.
In the midst of all the pontification about his worthiness, he continued to fight and hone his skills with an impressive work ethic and attitude.
“I’m going to compete…and do it with joy. I’m going to get better and then whatever happens, happens.”
He set his eyes on his dreams with a steady, focused, and determined gaze. All the while, devoting himself to investing in the lives of others through diverse charitable endeavors, including the Tim Tebow Foundation that changes lives and brings hope to the hurting, worth to the broken, and honor to the forgotten. This man who professed his faith when he was on the mountain top, has been unwavering in showing a jaded world the source of his hope in the valleys. And I believe him when he says,
“It gives you peace to go after what your heart desires – when you do that you don’t have any regrets. That’s the best way to live life…I’m blessed, because of my faith, that I don’t have to worry because I know who holds my future.”
I don’t know if his name will appear on the Eagles’ roster, or if he will ever take another snap in the NFL. We’ll all know soon enough. But I’m rooting for you, Tim. Thank you for the inspiration, the encouragement, and the example — in the sunshine, but especially in the shade.
Update…As the world knows, Tebow did not go on to play in the NFL, and is currently pursuing his dream of playing baseball —among other endeavors. My assessment of his character remains intact — he reflects admirable virtues, an eternal focus, and continues to impact the world and bring joy into countless lives. We have many sports heroes in the world –but not nearly enough Tebows.
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”