Tebow—the Heisman trophy-winning college star, prayer-kneeling NFL quarterback and bona fide cultural sensation—stood in front of more than 15,000 people Sunday morning at an “Easter on the Hill” service at Celebration Church in Georgetown, Texas. (By comparison, newly appointed Cardinal Timothy Dolan drew an .estimated 3,000 to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City)
During the service, Tebow said he is relying on his faith to help him get through change, told worshippers that it’s okay to be outspoken about religion, and even talked about “Tebowing,” the viral phenomenon in which everyone from Redskins safety Redd Doughty to GOP contender Rick Santorum has mimicked Tebow’s on-field stance.
“I really don’t think I was the first athlete to get on a knee and pray,” he said.
But Tebow also used the event, which he set up himself, to pass out a few opinions on the sort of topics future political leaders often favor. Tebow chided his fellow professional sports colleagues for not being better exemplars for kids. “Yes, you are,” he said to players who don’t call themselves role models. “You’re just not a good one.” When asked what needed to change in America, he said “first and foremost … what this country was based on: one nation under God. The more that we can get back to that,” he continued, to applause.
It wasn’t just that what he was saying sounded like a message for a broader audience, but the fact that he orchestrated the opportunity to say it. Tebow was not invited to speak at Celebration Chrch —a mega-church outside Austin whose pastor, Joe Champion (how perfect for a Tebow appearance!) just happens to be a former Louisiana State University football player and whose father coached in the NFL. Rather, he suggested the appearance at Celebration, which has four campuses, the primary of which is based on some 100 acres of land. It was one of a handful of “limited number of speaking engagements” that was coordinated by Tebow’s “people,” co-pastor Lori Champion told Fox News.
Of course, Joe Champion was sure to tell Fox, the event was not supposed to be about Tebow. “From the beginning, Tim said ‘this is not about me. I don’t want anything to draw attention away from the Easter message.’ ” Still, that didn’t stop the press from being invited—if given limited access—or curtail the church’s pastors from speaking to cable news about the event, praising Tebow as a “great leader.”
Who knows what Tebow’s plans are after the NFL. In February he told the Golf Channel’s David Feherty a political career could be in his future, and some took Tebow’s performance in his first Gang Green press conference as a sign he’d be quite good at it. Whatever his intentions, Tebow’s role in planning the Easter event and his message about what he thinks this country needs shows he has a strong hand in shaping his image—and appears to want to do more than just wear his Christianity on his sleeve.