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He is a superstar quarterback. He is a warrior of gridiron football that has taken America and the whole world by storm. He is the archetype of a hero who is not scared to combine publicly his quarterbacking skills with Christian faith. But unbeknownst to many, Philippines is also “home” for this phenomenal football hero.
Tim Tebow’s Filipino roots finally came to my attention like a bolt from the blue. Being the man of the hour, people have witnessed how Tebow transitioned from being a homeschooled Florida boy who became the first ever sophomore recipient of the prestigious Heisman Trophy to the football superstar that he is now after being drafted 25th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Nevertheless, it’s a rare opportunity to see The Mile-High Messiah not clad with that heavy football outfit, stepping outside his usual quarterback zone. During one of his games, an exhausted but gleeful Tim Tebow was caught on a You Tube video making his way straight to the back stage. His fan-friendly instinct was immediately inspired by a poster that said: “Tebow is the Pacquiao of football!” made by one of his Fil-Am fans. And just like what Adobo does to a homesick-stricken Filipino, the simple thought struck a chord with Tim Tebow. To my amusement, the appreciative football idol gave a quick “Salamat” and “Mahal kita” to his fan, carrying with it the crisp of an American accent which impressed me unequivocally. Surely, this 24 year-old Denver Broncos quarterback is a rising football superstar unknown to many Filipinos but of almost equal value as Manny Pacquiao. And what do they have in common? Both have weaved a special place for God and the Philippines deep within their hearts.
Hard Work Equals Success
Tim Tebow’s unprecedented strength and agility inside the football field has a story worth telling. Born in Makati City, Philippines to American parents Bob and Pam who were serving as Baptist missionaries in Mindanao at that time, the American football world could have missed a Tim Tebow had her mother didn’t push through with her complicated pregnancy. Due to poor sanitation, Pam contracted an amoebic dysentery and was advised to undergo therapeutic abortion by her Filipino doctors who suspected that the drugs given to her caused a placental abruption that might have put her life in extreme danger. In his book “Through My Eyes”, Tim recounts his mother telling him of what the doctor said, “According to her, the ‘mass of fetal tissue’ or ‘tumor’—me—had to go,” and his parents left that doctor’s visit “shocked and a bit numb, but resolute in what course they would take.” Her mother decided to push through and take a risk for her beloved “Timmy”. Little did she know that such crucial decision would eventually bring the world a football superstar who uses the football stage as a platform to inspire millions of people through his football skills and Bible verses. But we all know that his success all started with a dream that has been engineered by sheer hard work and passion for the game. After being homeschooled by their mother in Jacksonville, Florida, Tim spent his freshman year in high school as a linebacker and backup quarterback at the local Trinity Christian Academy. But because he wanted something more as an aspiring quarterback, he left Trinity for Nease High School which had a more pass-oriented offense. His decision turned out to be a smart move because he began setting every major offensive record in the state. In Tim’s senior year, Nease went 13-2 and won the state championship. He received numerous accolades and media attention during this time which undoubtedly catapulted his reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the world of American football. Eventually, he decided to play for coach Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators because of its “spread option offense” for which Tebow was deemed an archetypal quarterback.
Tim started his college career in 2006 as a backup behind Florida Gator’s career passing yardage leader Chris Leak. Since then, football for the Gators has never been the same. He became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy and also became the only person ever in NCAA history to score 20 touchdowns rushing and 20 touchdowns passing in the same season. But just like any champion, Tim Tebow had his own share of defeat and disappointment. After losing a game to Ole Miss in September 2008, he made a speech that touched both President Obama and the rest of the United States:
“I’m extremely sorry…I promise you one thing. A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season…God bless.”
He never let defeat take away his ambition. Those words have made him the epitome of responsible and mature leadership. And true enough, the Gators won the rest of their games in 2008, including the BCS championship against Oklahoma, where he played with the biblical citation John 3:16 painted in the ovals of eye black on his cheeks. To top it all off, Tebow graduated from the University of Florida in December 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in family, youth and community sciences.
With his unconventional mechanics as a quarterback, Tim Tebow made himself an easy target of doubt and criticism. Nonetheless, his entry to the NFL had hyped up the whole game and sales of his football jersey have been on the top sellers’ list in the league since day one. It is safe to say that Tim Tebow has proven a lot despite being the 25th pick of last year’s NFL Draft: he finished his first game with a 100.5 quarterback rating, considered a milestone for someone who just started his professional career, was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week twice, and became only the fifth quarterback since 1980 to win a game after being the sole quarterback on the winning team to complete two or fewer passes. With all these achievements, it seems that nothing can stop Tim Tebow, who is now known for leading Denver Broncos to its numerous come-from-behind successes, proving to his detractors that prayers and hard work really can get someone to greater heights.
Tebow is not ashamed to openly express his faith and is even proud to admit to his own virginity during one of the most controversial Tim Tebow interviews. His upbringing in a spiritually active Baptist family has clearly made a huge impact on his openness to show the world the love he has for this faith. Some admire it, some ridicule it. But it is evident that Tebow doesn’t care what other people think. Tim Tebow is a one-of-a-kind for bravely showing his “public display of faith” (PDF) including Bible verses printed on his eye paint, igniting a controversy that eventually led to rule approved by the NCAA — aptly named “The Tebow Rule”.
Who doesn’t know about the latest trend of “Tebowing”? It is a neologism coined after Tebow and his propensity to kneel and pray, especially after every touchdown. It has gone viral just like how “planking” has reached the Philippines and the worldwide spectrum. It is also reminiscent of our very own Manny Pacquiao who also does a similar ritual before he faces an opponent inside the ring.
Tebow, however, doesn’t do Tebowing and all his off-the-court activities for nothing; Tim Tebow is a man who has a meaningful purpose in life. On a GQ magazine interview two years ago, Tim put this purpose into words:
When you die,” Tebow booms, “there’s gonna be a tombstone, and on that tombstone there’s gonna be a name, and there’s gonna be a date. And for me, it’s going to be 1987, and then it’s gonna have a dash.… I want that dash to mean something. I want that dash to be special. I want that dash to represent that Tim Tebow finished strong.” He pauses, scans the crowd, sucks in a calming breath, and the wild screams and cries nearly drown out his next line: “And most importantly, when I get to heaven, I want Jesus to say, well done, my good and faithful servant.”
American by Blood, Filipino by Heart
Not even the local Makati government had the slightest idea who Tim Tebow is, his achievements in the U.S. as a superstar quarterback, and his Filipino roots.
“Tee-bone?” said Makati government official Mila Gonzalez in a telephone conversation with The Post Game.com. “How do you spell that?” she continues. Clearly, nobody at the Makati City Hall recognizes Tebow’s name. However, Makati is not alone in its plight because the name Tim Tebow doesn’t ring bell for the majority of Filipinos. In addition, most will not really care if they knew that even though Tim was actually born in the Philippines, he is really NOT a Filipino.
Well fellow Filipinos, we have to care now because Tim has an amazing plan for the country which has always been a special place close to his heart.
Far from local media attention, Tim has travelled several times in the southern part of the Philippines to spread the Gospel and visit Uncle Dick’s Home, an orphanage established by his father, Bob Tebow. He has publicly shared his firsthand experiences of his trips to the Philippines which even included providing free circumcision to young Filipino boys (a rite of passage to adulthood in Philippine culture). His experiences in the country as a whole however was the most fulfilling. As Tim shared during one of his GQ magazine interviews: “It is just the most amazing place on earth. My favorite place to go. We went into schools, hospitals, marketplaces, and, um, preached and even played a basketball game versus the town, and I preached at halftime, and it was just a great trip. Not like a great trip—it’s a work trip, but”—laughing—”it’s a lot of fun.” He also emphasized how the time he spends in Cotabato has kept him grounded and aware of the right perspective he should have in life. “It is a much different ballgame,” he says. “There, I hear no roaring chants from fans rooting for a touchdown, but deafening silence as people desire to receive the words of Jesus that I preach about. I see none of those eyes of adulation when we win games, but eyes of faith of people searching for Jesus who I talk about,” Tim relates. “You kind of find out from the get-go, what sets faith apart and what a game is just about.”
Tebow however doesn’t visit the Philippines just to gather “self-fulfilling experiences”. Just recently, he announced his plans to build a hospital in Davao City, Philippines and is asking donations from his fans worldwide to help make the dream a reality. The Tim Tebow Foundation, who announced its partnership with CURE International last October, revealed that the said hospital, which will cost 3 million US dollars, will be named the Tebow Cure Hospital. It will cater specifically to poor children with orthopaedic cases (i.e., bow leggedness and clubbed feet/foot). They foundation also mentioned that the 30-bed hospital, which will serve mostly charity cases, will break ground by January 2012 and should be completed by mid-2013.
When asked about his plans, Tebow stated: “I was born in the Philippines and my parents have been missionaries to that area since 1985. The Philippines have always had a special place in my heart. I’m excited to be a part of this hospital that will bring healing to thousands of children who would not otherwise have access to care.” Tim Tebow’s plan is obviously not just to leave a mark in American football history but also to give a lasting legacy to the Philippines and all of humanity, a feat that will only come from a man who genuinely believes that a good heart outlasts any transient achievement or award.
Perhaps most Filipinos know the Azkals better than Tim Tebow not just because we’re used to a more familiar soccer football that is far from American football, but also because “Tebow magic” has yet to reach the height of awareness in the Philippines. Tim may not be the hero with pure Filipino blood we usually hail as Philippines’ pride, but his character and story is a true gem that will fortify the whole of football world and the world outside it for years to come.
And no matter what controversy he might spur, Tim Tebow will always be The Mile-High Messiah, and the Philippines’ Football Hero.