Terrific or terrible—which is it?
Tim Tebow has been called both—and about everything in between—during his highly publicized athletic career.
He received a multitude of cheers and adulation as a quarterback at the University of Florida, where he won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and helped lead the Gators football team to national championships in ’06 and ’08.
He was a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft but was subjected to countless jeers—especially in the media—criticizing his struggles to succeed as a pro quarterback with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles from 2010-15.
Now, he’s turned his attention to baseball, signing a minor league contract in September with the New York Mets organization.
Even this latest endeavor has evoked plenty of skepticism, though the throngs of admirers and fellow Christians who have faithfully supported him over the years remain staunchly loyal.
Conversely, his most ardent detractors have zeroed in on his bold stand for Jesus more than anything else, particularly mocking his on-field prayers and his vow to remain a virgin until marriage.
Through all the highs and lows, Tebow has found a resting place that has no variance or extremes—his identity in Christ.
“Your identity is what you get to hold onto,” he said. “It’s the foundation of who you are. It’s not what you do. You could put your identity into sports or your girlfriend or boyfriend or a job or even your family, but none of those are going to be an identity that sustains you through everything.
“What’s going to sustain you is a relationship with Christ. That’s going to give you the strength to get through everything else you go through in your life. My significance doesn’t come in what the media says about me, what type of car I drive, what type of home I have, but it comes from who I am in Christ. Then I take that same framework and I get to apply that to everyone I come in contact with. You treat people with respect because they matter to God.”
Tebow, 29, documented the various phases of his sports journey in his new book, Shaken, which was released October 26.
He told Decision he chose the title because it aptly describes what he and many others have gone through during life’s most trying times.
“That’s what happens when you feel like everything around you is shaking, when you feel like so much of what you’ve done and what other people say [about you] is shaking,” he said.
“One of the cool things is while there aren’t a lot of people who can relate to my highs, about everyone can relate to me in the lows—like being cut or told that you’re not worthy. Maybe they got cut from a job or their boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them. Whatever it is, how do you handle it and bounce back from those moments?”
After completing his college career at Florida, Tebow was selected 25th overall by Denver in the 2010 NFL draft. He started 11 games in 2011 and helped the Broncos make the playoffs, leading several dramatic come-from-behind wins. But he completed only 46.5 percent of his passes—extremely low in college or pro football—and displayed an unorthodox throwing motion that troubled his coaches.
He was traded to the New York Jets, where he lasted one season and was used mostly as a runner, not a passer. While there, the sometimes-brazen New York media teed off on his liabilities.
The New York Daily News, which had praised Tebow as a “folk-hero quarterback” with a “magnetic personality” when he was at Florida, wrote a story anonymously quoting Jets’ teammates degrading his NFL worthiness.
Despite his deep faith, Tebow is not immune to such disapproval.
“I’m a people-pleaser by nature,” he said. “I like making people happy. I like making people laugh. So, no, it’s not easy. It’s not fun when you get trashed or when people say mean things about you, especially because you know you’ve got to be around family and friends who love and support you, and they take it on their shoulders as much as you do.”
But regardless of how well his sports career is going, Tebow has learned that God will use it to build his character and to bring about something good.
“What gets me through is the perspective that God is using this in me and through me, and He’s doing it for a reason,” he said. “You don’t just focus on the moment and the disappointment. You focus on the bigger picture that God’s got something awesome in store.
“He doesn’t say it’s going to be easy … I have to trust that God’s plan for my life is better than my plan for my life. … If it was my way, I would have won several Super Bowls or World Series by now, but it’s not about my plans. It’s about God’s plan and choosing to believe that He has my best interests at heart.”
Tebow had high hopes when the New England Patriots signed him to a free agent contract before the 2013 season. It afforded him an opportunity to play for and with two future Hall of Famers—coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. But he didn’t make the cut after the preseason and had the same result with the Eagles in 2015. He hasn’t played football since then, declining opportunities to try a position other than quarterback.
Now, he’s made the unorthodox move to baseball, a sport at which he excelled in high school before turning his focus solely to football. He said that decision was one of the hardest of his life, and now he’s going back to his roots.
Though his chances of eventually making the Mets’ major league roster are considered slim, Tebow is resolute.
“I’m doing this because I love it,” he said. “A lot of people may say, ‘Well, that’s impossible. You can’t accomplish that.’ And I’d say the biggest thing is that you go after what’s on your heart and don’t worry about the result. Failure is when you don’t give everything you have, not necessarily the result, and I think that’s gotten skewed in our culture.
“So for me, it’s about pursuing this with everything I have. You never know what the future holds, but I know Who holds my future. And when you know that, you can have peace.”
No passion in Tebow’s life compares to that which He has for Christ. He says his competitive nature is mostly rooted in his desire to be a good representative for Jesus.
The last chapter of his book is titled What Matters Most. He explains that the applause He most wants is for His Father in Heaven to say to him one day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” He shares the Gospel in the final pages and offers readers an opportunity to pray a salvation prayer of repentance and trust in Jesus Christ.
“We’re so blessed to have this Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “The Gospel changed my life.
“Hopefully, this book can be an encouragement for people to see, not just in me but in other people’s stories, how awesome Jesus is, how much He loves them and how He’s in the business of changing and restoring lives. He brings hope to us all.” ©2016 BGEA