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Tim Tebow is one of the most beloved--and belittled--men to fasten his chin strap on a football field. About a decade ago, Tebow helped the Florida Gators win two national championships with his vocal leadership and his rugged physical play.
He also picked up a Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football--maybe ever. But there were always the naysayers, citing his awkward delivery or his run-first mentality, which "would never work in the pros."
Many of them, truth be told, despised Tebow's unabashed Christian witness and pro-life beliefs--he wore eye black with a John 3:16 Bible reference, for instance--and his habit of kneeling to honor his Savior became a verb: "Tebowing."
Tebow, however, proved his critics wrong, taking the Denver Broncos on a miraculous run--in sports terms--of improbable, last-minute victories and a shocking overtime playoff win. Then Tebow's football fortunes changed again.
A couple of years later, he was out of the league.
But Tebow refused to give up and go away as his critics no doubt had hoped. Instead, he continued using his platform as a major cultural figure to further his gospel witness.
The Tim Tebow Foundation, for instance, sponsors an annual Night to Shine. The most recent one provided 90,000 boys and girls with disabilities, who otherwise might be forgotten, with a prom night experience, centered on God's love.
Some 537 churches with 175,000 volunteers in the U.S. and 16 other countries participated.
A former doubter, David Ramsey of the Colorado Springs Gazette, calls Tebow "the rare athlete more about life off the field than on the field. He's one of America's highest-profile--and most authentic and admirable -- Christians. Tebow isn't one to talk all the time about his devotion to following Christ. He's too busy actually following Christ."
Well, he's also back on the playing field--but this time the field is a baseball diamond. Tebow has dusted off his bat and glove and has been toiling in the minor leagues, honing his swing and looking to earn his chance at being called up by my beloved New York Mets.
No doubt the Mets know Tebow would boost attendance in New York, but Tebow is earning the opportunity, and even more amazing, silencing some of his critics. He's now playing for the Class Double-A Rumble Ponies in Binghamton, New York. Tebow, wearing his iconic No. 15, earned a spot in the Eastern League All-Star game, where he went one for four with a double.
Those who think Tebow has returned to pro sports for glamour and glory do not understand Tim Tebow. Washington Post sports writer Barry Svrluga described Tebow interacting with baseball fans on a long, hot dusty day in Hagerstown, Maryland:
"When Tebow arrived, at the ballpark he embraced anyone who approached. He called people by name. He took a picture with one kid, spun 180 degrees to take a picture with another, spun back and smiled for the next frame. One girl held a sign adorned with her prom picture and sparkly words that read, 'Thank you, Tim Tebow. From Princess Sarah. Night to Shine.'
"You're so welcome," Tebow said time and time again.
In fact, the Mets staff had to drag Tebow away from the crowds so the team could start the seven-hour bus ride to the next game.
"If I'm not remembered for baseball, that's OK," Tebow told People magazine. "If I'm not remembered for football, that's OK, too. Actually, it's fine if I'm not remembered at all. What I want is to serve God by helping people who are less fortunate. That's what's important, not playing a sport."
Amen to that.