GAINESVILLE, Fla. (BP)–University of Florida fans would have you believe that Gainesville is the new Smallville or at least the new Metropolis.
It’s hard to argue against their enthusiasm.
Tim Tebow’s boy-next-door reserve (ala young Clark Kent) and his on-the-field Man of Steel accomplishments make a pretty good case for the Superman persona Gator fans ascribe to him.
Tebow has helped his team win two national championships and two SEC titles. In 2007, he became the first sophomore in the history of the game to win the Heisman trophy; as a junior, he finished third. (He actually received more first-place votes than the other finalists last year, but in a weighted voting system, he received more third-place votes than second-place votes, costing him back-to-back Heismans). Tebow also is the only player ever to pass and rush for 20 touchdowns in an NCAA season.
His stats and heroics through three college football seasons have been decidedly out of this world.
“He flies through the air with the greatest of ease
“With that long red cape flapping in the breeze
“He’s got the blue underwear and the bright red boots
“To the guys he’s a hero, to the girls he’s cute”
— lyrics from Jacob’s Trouble song “If Superman Got Saved”
Yet, Tebow’s humility may be more impressive than his gridiron feats.
A committed Christian, he takes an “aw shucks” approach in deflecting fan worship, gently dismissing the Superman talk as simple excitement among Florida fans.
“Gator fans are awesome,” Tebow says. “They’re extremely passionate about Florida football. That’s what makes them great. At the same time, because they care so much, my teammates and I have the opportunity to influence a lot of them, and I have an opportunity to share a message with them. Some people look at it as they’re too into it, but I see it as a good opportunity to have a ministry with them.”
“We would have to listen to a guy like him
If the Man Of Steel became a Christian”
Tebow’s commitment to Jesus Christ is evident during almost every game and interview. Giving his faith top priority helps the celebrated quarterback deal with the fan idolization.
“There are so many temptations,” he says. “You know, it can be tough and a daily struggle, but I just try to trust the Lord with everything and surround myself with good, accountable friends, people that will give me godly advice. That really keeps me in line, keeps me accountable, and that really helps me in day-to-day life.”
While it would be easy to fall in love with the limelight and the spoils it offers, Tebow’s attitude is different from many successful college athletes. He sees each struggle and accomplishment as a blessing that God will use to reach someone new.
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs that most people don’t know about,” he says, “but each year has been a blessing. And whatever happens good or bad in the future, it’s God’s plan. So I’m not going to worry about things. I have no expectations; I try to live that way and just have an influence for Him.”
“Well he’s already courageous, he’s honest and he’s brave
I just wish the ‘S’ on his chest stood for ‘Saved'”
Tebow’s relationship with Jesus is what he calls “the main thing” in his life. He spends much of his time giving his testimony at churches, prisons and hospitals. Many times he’s even sharing his faith in Christ on the football field as he sports a Bible verse on his eye-black or wristbands. Philippians 4:13 is one of his favorites.
“A lot of people know Philippians 4:13 — ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ — but a lot of people don’t interpret that verse the right way,” Tebow says. “Most people think it means I can do anything … on the football field, or I can make a lot of money. But that’s not exactly what it’s talking about there. It’s [saying] I can be content with anything. When you’re a Christian, you can [be content] because God has put you where you are. That’s really a different view…. I know that I have Christ in me, so I can do whatever He wants me to do, and that’s how I approach everything.”
“Think of all the good he’d do if Superman got saved
So much more than me or you if Superman got saved
Well he’s faster than a bullet and stronger than a train
If only he’d endorse our Savior’s Name”
The lyrics of the song are offered tongue-in-cheek, but they parallel one of Tebow’s messages. Tebow understands that God has given him a great platform from which to proclaim the name of Jesus. He calls football his “ministry” and wants to use his gift to “influence people for the Kingdom of God.” However, Tebow wants everyone to realize that each of us has a “ministry” wherever we are gifted. All of us can do more; we don’t need to rely solely on those in the spotlight.
“I encourage kids out there to recognize the ministry they have in their classes,” Tebow says, “and do the most with that, to influence their friends in a different way.”
This applies to adults in business or in their neighborhoods as well. Tebow wants Jesus to have an impact far beyond comic book proportions. Make no mistake, Tebow is not Superman. He is, however, a super man who loves the Lord.
Brad McBrayer is an 18-year veteran in sports journalism based in Atlanta and a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.