Florida Trend's Floridian of the Year
Fla. Newsmakers of 2009
People who made an impact in business, economy, science, environment, government, education, sports, philanthropy, media and our fallen soldiers.
» Tim Tebow
"The one thing about Tim is his unselfishness, and his mission outside of college football is unparalleled," says Gators football coach Urban Meyer of his star quarterback, Tim Tebow. "The impact that he's made, it's almost like selflessness is now a cool thing. Kids realizing to give back and if you can brighten someone's day, you do it."
In the game on the field, Tebow has achieved two national championships along with record-book stats and the 2007 Heisman Trophy, the first won by a sophomore. After graduation this year, he'll be eligible to enter the NFL draft and turn professional.
In the game off the field, he's already a pro. He was well-prepared for what he saw as the inevitable question about whether he is still a virgin. Seizing a "teachable moment," he answered affirmatively, to the delight of many parents everywhere. Meanwhile, he cheerfully shoulders another mantle — that of a successful college student who was home-schooled during high school. "An excellent example of what home-schoolers can achieve," says Ian Slatter, director of media relations for the national Home School Legal Defense Association advocacy group. Florida law allows home-schooled students access to public school activities ranging from orchestra to football — Tebow played football at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra — and parents in other states who want their home-schoolers to enjoy similar access have introduced what many call "Tim Tebow bills" in their legislatures.
Tebow can't be talked of without addressing his faith. Together with his athleticism, it has made him the modern prototype of the "muscular Christian" so exalted by evangelizers. Like his forerunner in the category, Eric Liddell, the Scot and Olympian of "Chariots of Fire" fame, Tebow was born in Asia to missionary parents. As a fan of the Psalms, Tebow could preach to the Florida faithful on the dangers of putting faith in princes, but he's managed to remain a sports idol who hasn't disappointed with scandal.
Some who find Tebow's wearing his faith on his sleeve — or etched into his eyeblack — a bit over the top have to acknowledge that in a sport where pampered jocks prattle about adversity, Tebow sets a good example with his service. He's proved with his work in the Philippines (his birthplace) and his visits to inmates and the sick and disabled that his faith is about much more than prayer for a high pass-completion ratio — and that he knows the difference between real hardship and an untimely holding call.
"It's his sportsmanship, his personal drive, his character and his enthusiasm," says Tampa attorney Robert Stern, past president of the UF Alumni Association. "It's really his personal character, not just his Christian faith, that's made him a role model — and not just for kids. He's just a special young man. He's what's good about college football and student athletes." — Mike Vogel