Tim Tebow’s Greatest Off-Field Move: Crowning the Prom Queen
Tim Tebow. The name should be familiar to almost anyone who has tuned into sports at some point in the last decade. Even the cursory fan will recognize the name. Tebow was the best quarterback in college football from 2007-09. He entered the NFL as a first-round pick, and despite not having the greatest professional career, drew the media’s attention Sunday after Sunday.
Then, suddenly, Tebow retired from football and began his well-documented journey towards becoming a professional baseball player. But what many people don’t know is how good of a person Tebow is off the field. Fans catch glimpses of his faith on the field with sky-high points and religion filled interviews, but off the field, Tebow is an All-Star, and on one special night, the world saw just how impressive of a person he really is.
A Legend off the Field
Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow has become one of the more polarizing athletes in recent memory.
His exploits on the field are already the stuff of legend. The 2007 Heisman Award-winning quarterback at the University of Florida, Tebow became an international sensation in 2011 as starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
When he wasn’t leading improbable, last-minute comebacks, including an overtime divisional playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the deeply-religious Tebow was creating a social-media sensation with his on-field genuflections that became known as “Tebowing.” The spiritual kneel was imitated – and mocked – on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and only polarized the quarterback even more in the public consciousness.
But what seemed to be lost on so many who weighed in with their opinions of Tebow was the realty that the man was genuine in his faith and committed to using his celebrity to make the world around him a better place. That led to the creation of the Tim Tebow Foundation. And for one girl from New York, the connection to Tebow would change her life forever. But at first, it seemed the very celebrity that enabled Tebow to change lives would deny young Judy Adams her special hero.
Born in the Philippines to Pamela and Robert Tebow, two faithful missionaries who dedicated their lives to helping others, Tim moved to Jacksonville, Fla., at the age 3 and was home-schooled. One main advantage of homeschooling for Tebow was the time it afforded him to explore his faith in a more comfortable setting while still being able to play football at the local high school.
As a high schooler, Tebow’s intangibles and knack for winning attracted the eyes of colleges across America. Eventually, Tebow decided to stay in his home state of Florida and play for Urban Meyer’s Gators, a team with a spread offense perfect for Tebow’s unique running and passing style. Tebow that took his unorthodox throwing style to the pros, where it resulted in that magical 2011 season.
Stardom and attention have seemingly followed Tebow each step of the way on his incredible journey from standout high school quarterback to the pros, but Tebow has remained humble and grounded through it all. Fittingly, his greatest achievement in life isn’t the Heisman Trophy or two National Championships he won; it’s the organization he founded, the Tim Tebow Foundation.
The Foundation is the vessel that has allowed Tebow to publicly put his faith into action, an organization that has helped thousands of people around the globe, specifically children. It’s hard to find a clip of Tebow gushing about stats or accolades, but watching Tebow talk about the work his foundation has done for those in need brings out the most genuine, raw emotion. His passion for helping is palpable and more inspiring then any comeback he led or important pass he threw.
His foundation is an umbrella organization comprised of smaller, more specialized charities that raise money for a number of causes Tebow is most passionate about. For example, Tebow built a hospital in the Philippines through the Tim Tebow Cure Hospital foundlation and builds specialty child playrooms in hospitals throughout the world under the Timmy’s Playroom foundation.
However, out of all the foundations that exist within the Tebow Foundation, One Night to Shine is the one he treasures the most.
Changing Lives, One at a Time
Celebrities attending prom with their fans is not a new phenomenon. Taylor Swift and Rhianna attending prom with fans in 2007 and ’08 through an MTV program “Once Upon A Prom.” But more organic examples have dotted the celebrity landscape over the past decade, with several stars, male and female, fulfilling fan wishes for those battling illness – like “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens with cancer patient Cesar Guerrero in 2014 — or serving our country and attending military balls. Even Tupac Shakur did the celebrity prom thing not long before his death in 2006.
For Tebow, his One Night to Shine program is dedicated to giving special needs children around the globe an unforgettable prom-style night. It’s his organizations signature and biggest event, and it’s the one that draws the most attention out of the many noble causes Tebow fights for.
One night every year, with the help of 175,000 volunteers, One Night to Shine hosts 90,000 children in 16 countries, giving them an amazing red-carpet experience full of dancing, celebration, and flashy suits and dresses. It’s truly an amazing event that changes lives forever and celebrates those who are often on the outside looking in.
Judy Adams, a One Night to Shine participant, reached out to Tebow – her idol – and asked him to be her date for the New York prom. Due to prior speaking engagements and travel plans, Tebow wasn’t able to accommodate her request, but the request lingered in the back of his mind.
Later that year, Tebow was the featured guest on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. On the show, Tebow and Fallon spoke about the Tebow Foundation and, more specifically, One Night to Shine. While discussing its value to all of those involved and why it’s such an integral, special element for the foundation, the now-baseball player revealed that, because of sports, he never made it to his high school prom.
At that point, Fallon jokingly offered Tebow a corsage, which Tebow graciously accepted. With the corsage in hand, Tebow began speaking about an influential girl who happened to be sitting in the audience, a girl who attended a One Night to Shine prom. As Tebow continues speaking, the camera pans over to a girl sitting next to her mom, and that’s when Tebow asks if Judy Adams would like have a dance.
A tear-filled and shocked Adams – who attended the show thanks to Tebow covertly inviting her and her mom — stood up to a thunderous applause and approached Tebow, ready for her moment in the spotlight. The two had a huge embrace before slow dancing in front of millions of viewers during their nationally televised heartfelt moment.
The dance ended after a few minutes but the impact Tebow had on Judy – and so many others – is monumental.
He’s transcended sports and become an icon for millions based off of more than his God-given talents to throw a ball. He’s tirelessly worked to become an influential figure for those in need; he’s dedicated so much of his time and money towards improving the lives of others, and the altruistic athlete doesn’t plan on ever stopping. For him, there won’t be a retirement. No hanging up the cleats, because when the game on the field is over, the real one in the real-world is just beginning.
In regards to his foundation, Tebow doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. During an interview with People Magazine, Tebow said, “I want to build a legacy that is greater than football.” Even if Tebow ceased to work another day in his life and his charities folded, which are two events that are unlikely to happen anytime soon, he would have succeeded in building a legacy that stretches far beyond the confines of the gridiron or baseball diamond.
The Most Feared Gator in the Swamp
While at the University of Florida, the dual-threat quarterback captivated the nation during his 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning season, where he proudly displayed his Christian faith for the world to see. He ran and passed his way through the notoriously challenging Southeastern Conference, bulldozing defenders and threading the needle despite an awkward throwing motion.
His popularity and legend grew even more the following season, when Tebow led his Gators to a National Championship victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. This would be Tebow’s second at Florida, the first coming primarily as a backup during his freshman year.
At this point, the quarterback solidified himself as one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time. He won copious amounts of games and awards, shattered records, avoided controversies off the field, and defined a generation of Gator football. If Sunday was the Lord’s day, Saturday was Tebow’s. If the bible was his moral compass, the playbook was his map.
Outside of football, Tebow endured weekly criticism regarding his outward display of faith, yet his performance never faltered. His beliefs never changed. But for a large portion of football fans, Tebow’s faith clouded their perception of the man. It took focus away from his accomplishments and pinned it on his signature bible-verse adorned eye black.
It detracted from his prolific numbers and highlighted his post-touchdown prayer session. Tebow didn’t spike the ball and talk trash; he dropped to a knee and pointed towards the heavens. People couldn’t get over Tebow’s public display of his faith and thus he became a divisive figure in sports. Some loved the display while others abhorred it. Some called it genuine while others lamented it as cliché.
Although his faith attracted many detractors, Tebow blocked out the noise and stayed true to himself. Following four prolific years at Florida, Tebow declared for the NFL Draft and impressed enough coaches and scouts to get taken in the first-round by the Denver Broncos. He was billed by many as the quarterback of the future, a player who could re-define what an NFL quarterback was capable of.
He wasn’t an archetypal gunslinger; he was the future, and he had the city of Denver buzzing with excitement.
Taking the Next Step: Going Pro
At the pro level, Tebow’s awkward throwing mechanics became a more pronounced issue and hindered his performance. Players were faster and more skilled than in college and the quarterback began throwing more interceptions. The extended throwing motion wasn’t suitable for this level of football and his long, exaggerated delivery meant more sacks and more picks.
His ability to scramble for yards and run through people also diminished at the pro level, with defenders being bigger, faster, and stronger than the vast majority of players he faced at Florida. These runs, rather than ending with highlight-reel material, usually ended in injuries or dismal gains.
His deficiencies were highlighted, and the quarterback’s future seemed uncertain, but Tebow, yet again, tuned out the noise. After being named the starter with the Broncos 1-4, Tebow led a series of fourth-quarter comebacks and got the Broncos into the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Then, in an overtime playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tebow threw a bullet over the middle of the field to Demaryius Thomas, who caught the ball in-stride and took it 80 yards for a walk-off game winner. That accomplishment alone is more than many quarterbacks — ones with a more fluid delivery and sharper mechanics — will ever experience.
Eventually, much to the chagrin of Broncos fans, Tebow was traded from Denver. The experiment was cancelled. Chalk it up as a failure with some great moments scattered in between moments of failure and frustration. His inconsistencies could no longer be ignored; he proved himself incapable of being a franchise quarterback in the NFL and spent a few years bouncing around the league, unable to find a team or coach willing to let him throw the ball. It seemed that his playing days in the NFL were numbered.
Still guided by his unbreakable faith, Tebow decided that his football career was over. He hadn’t thrown an NFL pass in years and was drawing minimal interest from teams around the league. In this situation, many players would take up coaching, motivational speaking, or just simply retire and hit the golf course.
Not Tebow, a man that has enough money in the bank to retire twice. He put down his shoulder pads and picked up a bat and glove and began training for a shot at playing professional baseball, a sport he hadn’t played since his junior year in high school.
On August 30, 2016, Tebow hosted an open tryout for all 30 Major League teams, the first of many steps in his unimaginable transition to baseball. The majority of scouts were disappointed and unimpressed with his performance, yet a few scouts, thanks to his raw athleticism and power, commended Tebow and his natural abilities. His potential at being a respectable outfielder, combined with his ability to put fans in stadiums, drew just enough interest from a few teams.
The Mets eventually gambled on the unrefined prospect and signed him to a Minor League deal, placing him in the instructional league.
In the Minors, Tebow has shown flashes of power and skill and has risen all the way to Double-A, becoming an All-Star in the process. There is even talk that the Mets could call him up for a game at some point in the 2018 season, with the playoffs pretty much out of the question.
If Tebow does in fact make it to the majors – an improbable journey — stadiums would sell out to see the former Heisman winner and jerseys would fly off the shelf. Few players in history have successfully transitioned between baseball and football, including Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. If Tebow does in fact join this exclusive club, he’d propel himself to the top of a prestigious list. He’d prove to his doubters what he knew all along- that he’s an amazing athlete capable of anything he sets his mind to.
At the end of the day, however, this second phase of the Tebow experiment is just that: an experiment. He’s part marketing ploy and part potential. The Mets are fully aware that at 30 years old, Tebow is likely past his prime in a sport that he only recently started playing again. They also know that the amount of fanfare he can draw is second to none. So at 30 and with neither Tebow or the Mets risking a lot, this intriguing situation is a win-win for both parties.
Foundation of Faith
But what’s more amazing than Tebow’s journey from college star, to first-round pick in the NFL, to minor league all-star has been his ability to stay focused and do good for the communities he represents. His pride and joy aren’t derived from his fame or individual accolades he accumulated through a prolific college career and decently successful NFL career.
Tebow loves sports but lives for making the world a better place. It’s this faith – not his arms or legs – that guides him through life. For Tebow, sports were the perfect avenue for him to broadcast his faith.
The perfect medium for him to raise awareness for the causes he believes in most. Sports never became Tebow’s religion, sold out stadiums didn’t replace his church, and the 90,000 passionate fans watching in awe weren’t his disciples; yet without sports, Tebow would be just another name on a list. Another faithful adherent to his faith going through the motions of life.
Tebow’s Next Step
Tebow’s baseball career is uncertain but has the potential to pan out, at least in the sense that he can one day get to the majors. He has the hitting power and arm strength needed but needs to work on his consistency in getting on base and his throwing accuracy.
Off the diamond, Tebow has found himself in a serious relationship with Miss Universe winner Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, a South African native. The two appear to be a couple, marking the second time that Tebow has found himself dating a former Miss Universe participant. It appears that being a professional athlete and incredible human being is a winning recipe.
Win or lose on the field, the legend of Tim Tebow has only grown, and rightfully so. Not many athletes have done as much off the field and received so much flak in the process. Fortunately, Tebow understands how to tune it out and keep being himself, a man dedicated to helping others day in and day out.