NEW YORK Football rates a mere fourth on his list of priorities behind God, family and academics. Even so, in New York City Dec. 8 Tim Tebow became the first college sophomore to win the famed Heisman Trophy in the 70-plus years of the award.
The University of Florida quarterback was a finalist along with Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel. The trophy is one of the most prestigious individual awards in all of sports.
"I'd just like to first start off by thanking my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gave me the ability to play football and gave me a great family and a support group and great coaches and everything around me," a breathless Tebow said at the ceremony, moments after the award was announced.
Going on to thank teammates, high school coaches, his parents and siblings, Tebow repeated thanks to Jesus Christ and drew laughter when pledging his love for his chosen school for the third time.
"I love the University of Florida, I love being a Gator. I love Gator Nation," Tebow said.
A graduate of Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Tebow helped Florida win a national title last season as the Gators' backup. He is the first major college player to run for at least 20 touchdowns and throw 20 TD passes in the same season. This year's 22 rushing TDs by a quarterback tied the season record.
Tebow, affectionately referred to as "Timmy" by his family, is the youngest child of Bob and Pam Tebow, missionaries to the Philippines through Bob Tebow Evangelistic Ministries.
His mother, Pam Tebow, in a profile on ESPN, said she declined the advice of a doctor to get an abortion after she became seriously ill and dehydrated when pregnant with Tim, while living overseas. Bob Tebow said his son is a "miracle baby and so we have reminded him that hundreds of times." He was homeschooled but allowed to play high school football thanks to a Florida law.
Tebow told ESPN he wants to be a standout both on and off the field.
"Through everything that I do in football, in school, in living, I want people to see that in me," Tebow said. "I don't want to be just another guy who's walking down the street. I want when people see me they say, 'Hey, there's something different about this guy, and that's because he has a relationship with Jesus Christ.'"
Crediting his family with teaching him priorities, Tebow said his dad taught him about character and his mom taught him to memorize Scripture verses. His four brothers and sisters created a path for him by which he is able to "just follow in their footsteps," he said.
"God gave me the ability to play football and I'm just trying to go out there and honor Him with it and just be as passionate and enthusiastic about it as I can," Tebow said. "It's a game that I love and you've got to remember that He gave me the ability and the opportunity to play and it can be gone at any moment."
After receiving the Heisman, Tebow was thorough in his thanks and praise of those who shaped and taught him, inside and out.
"I am fortunate for a lot of things. God has truly blessed me and I am blessed with so much stuff," Tebow said.
Mac Brunson, his pastor at First Baptist Church Jacksonville, said he knew of the Tebow family's reputation when serving at a Dallas church where Tim's sister attended.
"I think who he is is a great tribute to his mom and his dad, in fact the whole family," Brunson said. "It's a family that's incredibly dedicated to the Lord, dedicated to missions. They walk the walk. They just don't talk about it; they really walk the walk. It's a close family, and you have to admire the family, not just Tim, but the entire family as well for their commitment to the Lord and the Lord's work.
"They are really an example of what a family can be under Christ because all of them are so gifted in so many different ways. He's got a brother who is an incredible athlete. He has a sister who is an incredible teacher. His mother speaks, his dad preaches and has this mission effort in the Philippines. They're all just talented, gifted. They're close. They're a great example of what a family can be when Christ is Lord of everyone's life."
Brunson said he believes Tebow has had a "phenomenal" sophomore year statistically, but even better are the postgame interviews and the ongoing Christian witness that's quickly becoming his trademark.
"He recognizes that his ability is a God-given gift," Brunson said. "Tim Tebow is the All-American athletic hero. He is clean cut, he comes from a solid family, he has great athletic ability, he's humble with it, it's not gone to his head."