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Tim Tebow: Jesus Christ’s football star

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 2, 2009 | 12:29 pm

I’m not sure any major athlete has ever been asked this question before—and, sadly, most professional athletes aren’t even expected to be faithful when they are married—but last month a reporter asked Tim Tebow quite possibly the hardest-hitting question of the Heisman winner’s college football career.

“Are you saving yourself for marriage?”

After a laugh and a smile, Tebow, the son of Christian missionaries who has hit the mission field himself and been a source of pride to evangelicals everywhere, responded, “Yes, yes I am.”

The video of that news conference is after the jump. Tebow’s answer is hard to believe, but if any famous athlete could do it, it’s Tim Tebow.

Which leads me to a Sports Illustrated cover story I’ve been meaning to mention for the past week: “Tim Tebow—Man of Many Missions.”

Here’s an excerpt from one of Tebow’s frequent prison visits:

A few minutes before arriving at Lawtey, Williams reminds his passengers to leave their phones behind. “They have two cellphone dogs,” he says. “The prisoners smuggle ‘em in and do business with ‘em, so the Florida legislature made it a third-degree felony to have a cellphone in prison.”

A guard across the parking lot greets the visitors with an enthusiastic Gator chomp. At the main gate officers collect driver’s licenses from the visitors and hand them electronic monitoring devices to be attached to their waistbands. “If you’re about to get shanked,” Tebow tells Bushell and Jenkins, “you push this button.” They think he’s kidding, but they’re not sure. As if to reinforce their doubts, a guard says, “This ain’t the Swamp. We ain’t playin’ here.”

When Tebow finally takes the mike, he is greeted by raucous cheers and more Gator chomps. He asks the convicts, “Who’s got the best hands in here?” A tight-end-sized ward of the state claims that he does and runs a pattern under the near baseline. He muffs a pass from Tebow that, to be fair, was thrown slightly behind him.

In a speech punctuated by exclamations of “Amen!” and bursts of static from guards’ radios, Tebow relates how, regardless of the venue—weight room, off-season workout, practice field or game—the Florida coaches are always on the Gators to “finish strong.” He notes how this ethos fueled a fourth-quarter comeback against Alabama in the SEC title game, then helped break a 7—7 halftime deadlock against Oklahoma.

Yes, the emphasis on finishing strong applied to football, Tebow says. “But more important,” he adds, telegraphing his transition, “it applies to life.

“A lot of you have started the first, second and third quarters really bad,” he says, and the room falls silent. “You might be losing. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because it’s about how you finish!”

When the cheering fades, Tebow shares with the inmates the fact that as a young boy he cared more about sports than about his Savior. “I told myself, I don’t need Jesus,” he says. “I was full of pride. It was all about me.” If he could see the light, they can too. But, he continues, “you might say, ‘I don’t want that gift. I’ll be fine—I don’t need any help!’” Then he asks the convicts a question:

“If you were to die right now, where would you be?” By which he means, in which direction would your soul be headed? “For me,” he says, “I have an answer to that question. I am one hundred percent certain I’m going to go to heaven because I have Jesus Christ in my life.”

Read the complete story here, and watch the virgin press conference after the jump:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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