This past Saturday, Christian-based, non-profit organization Agape Child & Family Services held its 15th annual HeartLight fundraising event featuring Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow.
Clad in a red-and-white plaid shirt, jeans and loafers, Tebow was greeted with a standing ovation as he entered the FedexForum. He opened up to the crowd of a couple thousand about his upbringing, his love for Jesus Christ, and how he got involved in sports.
“I was the baby of five,” Tebow explained. “I grew up on a farm on the west side of Jacksonville, [Florida]. I had four older siblings, so you learn to be competitive at an early age. We always competed in the yard. By the time I started playing sports, I was four, about to turn five. [My parents] signed me up for T-ball. The last thing I’d do on Saturday [was] play a game, but the first thing I would do on Sunday [was] go to church. When I’d go, I’d tell everybody, ‘look, I hit three home runs yesterday. I went four for four.' At a young age, I was very arrogant, very proud.”
Boasting a haughty personality during his childhood didn't sit well with his mother. She made Tebow memorize bible verses on humility because of this, such as Proverbs 15:33, James 4:6, and 2 Chronicles 7:14. He had to repeat the verses word for word to her before his weekly games. He said this eventually lead to him becoming a more humble athlete.
“I realized you are no better just because you’re decent at a sport,” Tebow said. “It doesn’t make you special just because you can play baseball, football, basketball—those are just gifts from God. We’re all blessed with different gifts but that doesn’t make us more special or better. God gave us a gift and it’s about how we use it for his honor and his glory.”
Tebow is known universally for his signature prayer after scoring touchdowns and also for wearing references to biblical verses on his eye black during his college football career with the Florida Gators. [In 2010, the NCAA's Football Rules Committee introduced a new rule that banned all words, logos, numbers or other symbols on a players' eye black. It was dubbed “The Tebow Rule.”] Tebow revealed that he came up with the idea to put Bible verses in his eye black shortly before playing the Tennessee Volunteers his junior year.
“I’m in the training room getting ready for the game and I see a bunch of my teammates putting on eye-blackener under their eyes,” Tebow said. “I start thinking, ‘if I took a silver Sharpie and I wrote something on there, maybe I could inspire someone.' I start thinking, ‘God bless? No.’ Then all of a sudden I think of Philippians 4:13: 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' I said, ‘perfect. That’s what I’m going to go with.’ So I put it under my eyes, and we went out there and played and beat Tennessee. Every single week, I wore that under my eyes. By the end of the year when we were getting ready to play Alabama in the SEC championship, thousands of Gator fans were wearing Philippians 4:13 under their eyes.”
By the time the Gators played the University of Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship, Tebow had changed the Bible verse to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He said he did this because the verse is the essence of Christianity
After Tebow wore the scripture during the championship game on Jan. 8th, 2009, more than 90 million people Googled John 3:16.
“I said, ‘how the heck did 90 million people not know John 3:16’,” he jokingly reminisced.
Three years later on Jan 8th, 2012, Tebow and the Denver Broncos played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL playoffs. During that game, he threw for 316 yards. His yards per rush were 3.16. His yards per completion were 31.6, his time of possession was 31.6, and the ratings for the night were 31.6 percent of all U.S. households. It became known as the 3:16 Game.
Aside from football and Christianity, Tebow also spoke about the philanthropy he does through his Tim Tebow Foundation, and what sparked his interest in helping others.
“When I was 15 years old, I went on my first missions trip outside the U.S.,” Tebow said. “I was in the Philippines and we were speaking at hospitals, market places, and prisons, all over the place. But it wasn’t until one day I was at an orphanage and I was playing with orphans who had been raped and beaten; we were telling them that God loves them and cares about them, and you could see their lives change. You could see the joy in their life. It was amazing. It changed my life. I realized at that moment, I want to be the best quarterback that I can possibly be, but more than that, what I want to do with my life is impact lives, and that’s why I decided I wanted to start the Tim Tebow Foundation, which was going to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”
The event was ended with a prayer by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. The event raised more than $600,000.