Tim Tebow is the real deal.
In case you have been living on another planet, he is the 23-year-old superstar Heisman trophy winning football player for the Denver Broncos. And he’s drop dead gorgeous.
He‘s also a deeply committed Christian and not afraid to say so, which he does in his new book, “Through My Eyes.”
Tebow has been written about a lot and is now on a wild book tour, doing TV, radio and print interviews all over the country.
During a recent phone interview, he talked about “God’s plan” for his life, his upbringing, hardships, winning and losing, football and, not least of all, women and sex.
For now, Tebow sees God’s plan for him as “being a good role model for kids through football.” “You’re not a chaplain or a priest or working in a ministry” he says, but you are “making a difference in people’s lives.”
There is something very beguiling about Tebow. He seems almost an unmolded adolescent who is just beginning to think for himself, examine his life, and ask questions. He is open and friendly with a good sense of humor. It’s hard to imagine such innocence in someone his age and in his field, but talking to him, it’s hard to believe it isn’t genuine. When asked questions he clearly has not been asked before, he ponders and tries to respond as openly and honestly as he can. Only once, when asked about same-sex marriage, did his publicist, on the other end of the phone, protectively jump in to object that that was off message.
At only 23, Tebow has had more than his fair share of publicity — and not all good. “To me it’s not a big deal,” he says, adding that being in the spotlight, “helps me work harder.” In fact he opens the preface of his book discussing the press. “It’s not always the easiest thing to be the center of so much spilled ink,” he writes. “You read glowing things and it doesn’t feel deserved. You read things that are critical and it cuts you to the bone.” For that reason, he says, he wanted to write the book to set the record straight.
Being as open as Tebow has been about his Christianity has been the cause of a lot of the criticism. As a college star, he was known for writing bible verses on his game day eye-black, the grease football players wear under their eyes to reduce glare. One of his favorites was Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (He wrote Phil under one eye and 4:13 under the other.) Once before a tough game, against the wishes of his coach, he changed the verse to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Guess what? They won the game.
His coach was elated. After the game he came over to Tebow. “Atta boy, Great job,” he said. You finished. I love you.”
“As great as that was, “ writes Tebow,” how much greater will it feel when we get to heaven and Jesus takes off His headset, opens up His arms, gives us a big hug, and says, ‘Atta boy, Great job. You finished. I love you.”
Another area that has gotten him a lot of press is dating and sex. At a 2009 press conference he was asked if he was saving himself for marriage and he replied candidly that he was. He laughed about it at the time, accusing the press of being more embarrassed by the question than he was. He seems unfazed by the teasing and ridicule. “I’m not insecure about who I am,” he says.
As one might imagine, he is constantly surrounded by women but as he put it, “I haven’t been swept off my feet yet.” How has he managed to resist all of the temptation? “It’s about meeting the right girls,” he says. “Quality people. Developing relationships with private people. “ He believes that marriage should “encourage you in what you believe.” It should make you “a better person.” Finding Miss Right,” he says, “is an exciting search for me. Would he marry outside his faith? “You never know,” he says. The important thing for him is “It’s attractive when girls have faith.” That, he says, “is a big thing for me.”
His parents were missionaries in the Philippines; he spent his early years there with them. Later, with the help of a friend, the family would set up an orphanage there. And at age 15, Tebow went back to the Philippines to do mission work. He frequently travels back and considers the work an important part of his life.
Tebow says that the circumstances of his birth shaped how he sees his life’s mission. During a difficult pregnancy, his mother was told that if she gave birth she would probably die, and doctors recommended an abortion. She refused and both she and her baby boy survived, shaping Tebow’s views on everything from his faith in God to his anti-abortion politics.
The story, he says, “Has given us a platform to share with others a variety of spiritual applications, including the faithfulness of God. “In fact, during the 2010 Super Bowl, Focus on the Family ran an ad of Tebow and his mother talking about the importance of being pro-life. He believes he survived because “God has a plan for me. It’s a lot of my story, being given a chance. Life is sacred.”
What would he do if he were put in a similar situation where he had to choose between the life of his wife and his unborn child? “That,” he says, “would be really difficult.”
He admits that people say one’s faith is always tested through trial and adversity and tribulations. When he has them, he prays. “God, I thought you were going to help me. I’m trying to do the right thing.” At times, he says, “I didn’t know the right thing to do. He wasn’t showing me but leading me.”
Tebow credits his upbringing for his faith, yet when asked whether he would have had the same beliefs had he been brought up in another faith he says, “Good question.” He adds quickly, “my parents had a big impact in my life. They were a great example for me. “
What has been the hardest moment for him in his life. “Faith wise?” “The trips,” he answers without hesitation. Every time he goes to the Philippines to visit the orphanage, he says, “I haven’t wanted to come back. I want to stay with the orphans. I felt like that’s my place. That’s what I want to do.” He says that he feels like God is telling him he has a plan and that “I have a heart for third world countries and orphans.”
Though his book is ostensibly a story about his football career, it is more a testimony to his faith in Jesus than any thing else. Each chapter, for instance, begins with a quote from the bible.
Football is his passion. But football is all about winning and losing. Is it Christian to want to beat somebody, to want someone else to lose? He thinks about that for a long time. It is part of God’s plan he says, and he says that he plays to “honor” God. “But it is, he admits, “all about winning and losing.” I’m very competitive,” he says. “You can play to win and still have high character, integrity,” he says. “You treat others the way you want to be treated.” And, he says, he takes the platform he has been given, treating it as a ministry.
Does he pray to win in the locker room before a game? “I’ve done that many times,” he says. What if the other team is praying in their locker room too? It’s part of God’s plan. “I pray that God will give me the opportunity to encourage someone.” He prays that if he wins he will be “humble” and that if he loses, “to be able to give it to Him.” His teammates, he says are “really supportive” of his faith, “They are surrounding me.” And he says, many of his teammates are of the same faith. “I just try to live it and be who I am.”
Would he ever think of running for office? “Maybe,” he says. “Who knows, down the road.” Right now though, he is focused on “my ministry” which he says is his Tim Tebow Foundation “for bringing faith, hope and love to those in need of a brighter day,” according to its mission. It concentrates on children’s issues. “This is what I feel called to do, around football and after football.” The most important thing in his life right now is “football, my faith and my foundation.”
The interview is over. I look forward to interviewing him again in 10 years to see who he has become.
“You have a blessed day,” he says.
Sally Quinn | Jun 28, 2011 2:20 PM