Tebow still inspires UF fans

Tim Tebow does the Gator Chomp as he is inducted in the University of Florida Ring of Honor during the game against LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/ The Gainesville Sun]

Nine years after throwing his last pass in a Florida football uniform, 10 years after leading the Gators to a national championship and 11 years after winning a Heisman Trophy, Tim Tebow still resonates.

On the set of SEC Nation, as Tebow interviewed Florida coach Dan Mullen on Friday at the Plaza of Americas on UF’s campus, fans lined up against the fences, cell phones out, taking pictures. One student yelled “Tebow, wish me luck on my exam!” while another yelled at Mullen to “put Tebow in the game!” A 9-year old boy held up a Tebow sign.

“I guess that’s probably parents sharing stories with him,” Tebow said.

Each time Tebow returns to campus, he says it’s special. But this weekend will be different. On Saturday, Tebow will be placed in UF’s Ring of Honor at Ben Hill Griffin, and will be honored with teammates for the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 national title team.

“It means a lot,” Tebow said. “This place is so near and dear to my heart. It’s one of my favorite places on this Earth. So it’s a honor. I love Gator Nation and I feel like it’s pretty reciprocal. It just makes you feel great to be able to come back and experience that. It’s very special for me.”

At 31, Tebow has found a second chapter, in both TV as a SEC Network analyst and personality and as a minor league baseball player in the New York Mets system, since his NFL career came to an end in 2015. There’s also been plenty of commercial appearances, motivational speaking engagements and countless stories of good works. Last month, Tebow revealed he auctioned off his Heisman Trophy to celebrity Kathie Lee Gifford for a year for $100,000 to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Laura Rutledge, who now works alongside Tebow as SEC Nation’s host, was a freshman at UF when Tebow won his Heisman and a sophomore when he helped lead the Gators to the 2008 title.

“Now I just think of him as Tim and I don’t think of him as that big of a deal,” Rutledge said. “But earlier today we were actually on the field and walking through some of his memories and I get chills, even talking about it now, because that year obviously and just that time in general was special to anybody who was a Florida student, anyone who went to school here.”

Rutledge said she believes Tebow still resonates with Florida fans because he’s genuine.

“That’s sort of rare, sadly, in our society that somebody is that true to their core and that true to their values,” Rutledge said. “But he’s always been the same, he’s always been reliable.

“He’s very convicted in his faith and he puts that out there and wears it certainly proudly on his sleeve. I think his success has only grown since he was in school and he would probably even tell you that as a person he’s matured a lot even from being in college. He’s always been a great leader and a lot of what he’s been through, and a lot of failure too, and somehow has always been this example of someone who can always bounce back from that, so I think we all find great hope in that.”

UF senior Elizabeth Colvin was among close to 100 students who lined up to watch Tebow on the SEC Nation set Friday. Colvin grew up in St. Augustine, where Tebow starred at Nease High School before coming to UF. To Colvin, Tebow remains an inspiration.

“He’s driven by faith and by his love for what he does,” Colvin said. “So whether it be football, whether it be sports in general, just walking by faith in life.”


      • Doc – It’s a shame generations have been brainwashed by secularism to change the meaning of “freedom OF religion” to “freedom FROM religion” and “separation of church and state”. Last I checked, only the former is in the constitution. The other two are interpretations derived from the first. It’s a shame we have not had even one Protestant on the Supreme Court in God knows how long. I would love to have a Justice who is not from the brotherhood of Ivy League Law Schools. I guess UF Law School and many other law school graduates are not of high enough caliber to represent the elites and interpret the Constitution logically. Google Justice Scalia’s view on diversity of the Supreme Court. He got it right.

        • I sometimes wonder if the Constitution can be further stretched, elongated, or even contracted more than it has already become….or for that matter, even viewed as irrelevant by even more people…..but when it comes to religious orientations of the justices, I agree that it is anything but diverse. So too are the “elite” nature of the law schools represented, but the most troubling thing of all may be the geographic distributions. Scalia was brilliant to point these things out vis-a-vis the orthodoxy of contemporary “diversity” indeed. There may not be another justice quite as brilliant, but time will tell.

          • Scalia was a great loss. Too bad our President didn’t replace him with someone resembling the diversity background Scalia advocated.

    • Wildly out of touch comments from DATED OLD MEN who are thankfully on their way out. The youth of America are not rooted in this nonsense and laugh at you all.

      Why are hard core football traditionalists always clueless conservatives? I know the answer.

  1. I did a little more research. John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant to sit on the Supreme Court. He retired in 2010. I don’t know if he was the last Protestant to be nominated and approved. If so, he was sworn in in 1975. That’s almost two generations since we’ve had a Protestant sworn in. That is a crime considering about half of the U.S. population are Protestants.

    George Bush nominated Harriet Miers, a Protestant, in 2005 but the supposedly “conservative Christian backed” Republican controlled Senate shot down her nomination because she lacked the credentials. I’ve yet to find somewhere in the Constitution stating the credentials one must possess to be qualified to sit on the highest court. What credentials does one need to interpret the Constitution or any piece of writing for that matter? Whatever they are, it excludes 99.999999…% of the population. By today’s standards, even Solomon would not be qualified. I suppose our legislators today are wiser than him.