If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably heard of football quarterback Tim Tebow. Besides being an outspoken Christian athlete, Tebow is a homeschool graduate. Although he did not attend public school classes, he played on the Nease High School football team which won the 2005 State Championship. In his freshman year at college, Tim joined the Florida Gators, the team that won the National Championship in 2006. As the starting quarterback, Tim has been leading the Gators to victories ever since. On January 11, 2009, Tebow announced that he would return for his senior season at the University of Florida rather than making himself eligible for the NFL draft.
Tim grew up in a close but competitive family and athletics have always been a big part of his life. At five years old, he was begging to play organized sports. Like his other siblings, he was homeschooled until college. Fortunately for him, in 1996 legislation was passed in Florida allowing homeschooled students to compete in local high school sporting events. This Florida law allowed Tim to play baseball, basketball, and football, and he received numerous county and state awards for each sport.
Tim’s parents, Pam and Bob Tebow, have been called “homeschool pioneers” because they began homeschooling in 1982 before this form of education became popular. Teaching their children to honor God was the main reason for their decision to homeschool. “If I could get my kids to the age of 25 and they know God and serve God and had character qualities that pleased God, then I knew God would be happy and I would be happy,” explained Bob Tebow. “The only way I could do that was to do it myself, commit to God that this is my job,” the senior Tebow continued. “Traditional academics had to take a back seat to God’s Word and character building.”
In addition to family values and character training, the Tebows focused on each child’s individual learning styles, interests, and goals. All five of the Tebow children went on to receive college scholarships. Tim was the first underclassman ever to be awarded the Heisman Trophy for most outstanding player in collegiate football. He earned the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top football player twice. He also won the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s best quarterback, and the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete in any sport.
Tim remains humble in spite of all the national attention he has received for his accomplishments. Tim credits the Lord, his family, his coaches, and his teammates for his success. Although football is important to him, his first priorities are faith, family, and academics. A favorite verse from the Bible that he often quotes is Philippians 4:13, which credits the true source of his strength, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Just like in the movie, “Facing the Giants,” Tim’s main goal is to give glory to God.
The Tim Tebow Bill
Football season may be over for now, but Tebow is still in the news with an Alabama Senate bill named after him. Senate Bill 305, a.k.a. the “Tim Tebow Bill,” would allow homeschooled students to participate in public and non-public school athletics. Kentucky and Arkansas also have Tim Tebow bills in the works. Similar legislation is currently being proposed in the states of Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
At least 24 states already have laws allowing homeschoolers equal access to athletic activities. These include: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.
Despite the fact that the Alabama Education Association and many high school principals are opposed to the idea of homeschooled students playing sports without being enrolled full time in public school, the Tim Tebow bill seems to be gaining acceptance in the Alabama legislature. State Senator Hank Erwin, the bill’s main sponsor, said “We’re moving the ball forward. It’s slow, but … we’re moving it down the field one yard at a time.” On April 22, 2009, the Senate Education Committee will vote on this bill, in what will be their third attempt.
Tim has spoken in favor of homeschool students being able to play on public school teams. Tebow’s father said that if Florida law had not allowed homeschoolers to participate, he would not have enrolled Tim in public school just so that he could play football. Tebow’s mother stated, “It has been my experience that the families who home school are a positive addition to an athletic team, school band, or interest club.” Tim regularly was the spokesman for his football coach’s team goals of “character, strength, and honor,” and he continues in a similar role at the University of Florida.
Tim’s Family and Faith
Timothy Tebow was born on August 14, 1987 in Manila, Philippines, where his parents were Christian missionaries. While pregnant with him, his mother suffered a life-threatening infection compounded by a severe placental abruption. Expecting a stillbirth, doctors recommended that she have an abortion to save her own life. She refused, and through the miracle of prayer, both mother and baby survived. “It was … a really a great beginning because you know when something is hard to come by, you value it so much,” said Pam Tebow, adding, “all of our children value Timmy because they’d all had a part in praying for him.” Tim has two older brothers and two older sisters.
When Tim was three, the Tebow family moved back to Florida, the home base for his father’s his twenty-five year ministry. All of the Tebow children regularly go to the Philippines on mission trips. Tebow has worked at the orphanage there since he was 15. Each summer, Tim returns to lead evangelistic crusades and minister to the children. On one of Tim’s mission trips, the highlight for him was preaching to 10,000 high school students in Digos, Mindanao. At home in Florida, he regularly visits schools, hospitals, and even spoke at a prison.
The Tim Tebow Foundation utilizes the public platform that God has blessed Tebow with, to inspire and make a difference in people’s lives throughout the world and by helping to support global charities. Tony Dungy says, “His leadership and Christian values set an example not just for his teammates, but for all young people. Tim has already demonstrated that he is a young man of uncommon ability, determination and, most of all, character. This foundation is just further evidence of his belief that what he does off the field is just as important as what he does on it. I look forward to watching Tim and this foundation to continue to show us all how we each can have a tremendously positive impact on others.”
Tim’s faith is the driving force in his life, and he is acutely aware that “To whom much is given, much is required.” Tebow keeps a poem on his bulletin board that reminds him of an athlete’s accountability to be a role model for the boys who want to be just like him. He is a tough but tenderhearted guy who likes to greet young fans at his games. Tim also leads fellow college students in Bible studies each week and has a desire to remain involved in ministry.
In a one-hour documentary about Tebow that aired on ESPN, Tim is seen studying the Bible as part of his homeschool curriculum and devotional reading. The football team is shown praying before and after practice. After almost a year filming Tim’s senior season in different settings, ESPN producer Ken Murrah said, “I made the decision that it must be heavily based on their faith and beliefs.” Murrah explained, “I knew he was a good football player in his strength, size and unique skills, but I was amazed at his natural ability and maturity to speak publicly, go into schools, be comfortable in being a role model and talk so openly about his faith.” Timothy is a name that means “honoring God,” and Tim Tebow is doing just that.