Tim Tebow wants his life – and yours — to have meaning beyond football

By Mark Inabinett

MOBILE, Alabama – Tim Tebow said he didn’t want to be remembered as a football player after he died, although it is because he is a football player that he was the featured guest at the eighth annual University of Mobile Leadership Banquet tonight at the Mobile Convention Center. To see pictures from the event on your mobile devices click here.

Tebow understands that, and he has a message for the platform that’s afforded to the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback who made Tebowing part of the national vocabulary.

“I want to be the best football player I can be,” he said tonight, “but that is temporary.

“When people talk about me after I’m long gone, I hope they never mention football. I hope they say I loved others and I loved Jesus because that’s all we’re called to do.”

Tebow said if his football heroics stand as the greatest thing he does in his life “that will be a tragedy.” He’d prefer to live “a life of significance.”

That doesn’t mean Tebow doesn’t pour everything he’s got into football. It’s just that he wants everyone to take the same love, passion and sacrifice he experiences with football and put them to more meaningful use.

“We can be passionate about football, our jobs, our work,” he said. “But shouldn’t we be as passionate about sacrificing for Christ?

“Impacting lives, sharing your faith – are we really passionate about doing that? Are we willing to sacrifice for it? Yes, because that’s what I really love.”

Tebow said he wants to use his football celebrity as a conduit “to put a smile on kids’ faces and let them know that God loves them and has a plan for them.”

His Tim Tebow Foundation says its purpose is “to bring Faith, Hope and Love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need. The Foundation utilizes the public platform that God has blessed Tim Tebow with to inspire and make a difference in people’s lives throughout the world.”

The foundation works with CURE International to build hospitals in the Philippines (where his parents were missionaries), grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses and builds playrooms in hospitals and orphanages, among other endeavors.

“When kids say you’re my role model, that really means a lot to me,” Tebow said. “Not that I’m perfect, but I’m trying to do it the right way.

“I’m also here to say to you: You’re a leader. You’re a role model … because there’s probably somebody in your life that’s watching you. … The question is: Where are you leading them? What kind of role model are you?”

Some of those attending the University of Mobile fundraiser had their pictures taken with Tebow before the event. He said he’d never had so many people tell him they were praying for him. He said he appreciated it, adding, “You never know what that can do for somebody.”

Seemingly small acts of encouragement like that can grow into bigger things, Tebow said, using the example of his famous eye black.

Tebow said he decided to put a Bible verse on his eye black to excite the team a little bit before his Florida Gators played rival Tennessee during his junior season. He chose Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

He kept doing it for the rest of the season. By the end of the year, Florida fans from all over were wearing eye black with “Phil. 4:13.”

Before Florida played Alabama in the SEC championship game that season, Tebow said God “put it in my heart and in my head to change the verse.” But he didn’t – not until the Gators’ next contest – the BCS national championship game for the 2008 season — and after he explained it to football coach Urban Meyer. Meyer’s reaction? “What? Philippians 4:13 got us here,” Tebow related.

For the game against Oklahoma, Tebow changed his eye-black verse to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Tebow said 94 million people Googled John 3:16 during the game. His response? “How the heck do 94 million people not know John 3:16?”

He still had John 3:16 on his eye black when he led the Denver Broncos to an NFL playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2011 season. Tebow said 90 million people Googled John 3:16 during that game, and he also was amazed to learn that during the contest he passed for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per completion while Denver had the ball for 31 minutes, 6 seconds.

“Some people say it’s coincidence,” Tebow said. “I say we just serve a pretty cool God.”

What had started by wearing a verse under his eyes to get his teammates a little more fired up to play Tennessee had ballooned almost into a ministry of its own.

“The cool part of the story,” Tebow said, “is what God can do in your life if you step out and show a little courage.”

Tebow said he was “humbled” by what had happened.

Influence, humility and service were recurring themes throughout “A Conversation with Tim Tebow,” which included Phil Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, and Neal Ledbetter, the University of Mobile’s director of Campus Life, on the stage with Tebow. They asked the quarterback questions that had been tweeted by audience members and University of Mobile students.

One question asked the role of service in leadership.

Tebow answered with a story about a visit to missionaries in Thailand, one of whom was his sister, that he made soon after he won the Heisman Trophy. He wondered what he had to say to people putting their lives on the line for the Gospel. Because he felt they had humbled themselves to make a difference, he shared with them Matthew 23:11-12: “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

“If the world could see you through God’s eyes, you would be winning the Heisman Trophy. Not me,” Tebow said he told the missionaries.

Then he told the Mobile crowd: “To be great is not about making money or having people know your name. It’s about humbling yourself and serving, serving the people who can never repay you.”

Tebow said he woke up every day growing up saying he wanted to be great. Now, he sees a greatness bigger than football: “If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, it’s pretty clear – humble yourself and serve those around you, and you will be great.”

Tebow’s appearance filled the Exhibit Hall at the Mobile Convention Center, attracting more than 1,800 people – more than the University of Mobile had attend its leadership banquets with former President George W. Bush and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are both significant historical figures in our nation,” University of Mobile President Mark Foley said, “and we had great turnouts when they came here. As you can see, this has a different feel. It’s more casual. And we have twice as many people. But that speaks to the influence of this young man.

“The frenzy for sports is not limited to our region. It’s a national frenzy. But it doesn’t matter what the venue is that brings people together. To him, football is a pulpit. To me, being a university president is a pulpit. Whatever it takes to spread Christ into the hearts and minds of the nation.”

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3 Responses to “Tim Tebow wants his life – and yours — to have meaning beyond football”

  1. tisa says:

    Great evening with a great young man!

    • ck says:

      tisa: Thanks for posting and wish we ALL could have been there b/c everything he stands for inspires whole multitudes, including me!:D

  2. andrea says:

    Nice article – I enjoyed it.

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