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Underclass act

Sports | Heisman winner Tim Tebow seems as ready for fame as he is for blitzing linebackers

Issue: "Out from the shadows," Dec. 22, 2007

Web Extra: Florida's heralded quarterback will have all eyes on him next season -- for good or ill

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow took the stage at the Nokia Theater in Times Square Dec. 8 looking nervous and unprepared to deliver an acceptance speech for college football's highest honor. But the first words from the newly crowned Heisman Trophy winner betrayed a level of preparation beyond public speaking skills: "I'd just like to first start off by thanking my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave me the ability to play football."

Though at times awkward, Tebow's sincere deflection of glory to teammates, coaches, family, and God revealed the value of an upbringing rooted in Christian faith. The sophomore playcaller, who is the first underclassman Heisman recipient in the award's 73-year history, learned lessons of humility and character while growing up on his family's 44- acre farm near Jacksonville, Fla.

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Homeschooled alongside his older two brothers and two sisters, Tebow spent considerable time on farm chores, developing the kind of toughness and discipline necessary to quarterback a top-notch college football team. His never-complain approach became evident early in athletics when as a high-school sophomore he played through pain to rally his team with a 29-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. X-rays later revealed he made the play on a broken leg.

That same grit helped Tebow push through the disappointment of three losses this season to post some of the greatest numbers in college football history. He passed for 3,132 yards and 29 touchdowns and rushed for 838 yards and 22 scores, becoming the only player ever to amass at least 20 touchdowns on the ground and through the air.

Yet, at awards time, the 20-year-old's thoughts were centered outside himself as he thanked "my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" a second time later in his speech and credited his father Bob for instilling in him a strong work ethic.

Tebow's father is founder and director of the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, which preaches the message of Jesus Christ throughout the Philippines, planting evangelical churches, operating an orphanage, and training new pastors. The family moved home from the Philippines when Tebow was 3 years old, but its devotion to evangelism and public expressions of faith never waned-whether talking to villagers on frequent trips back overseas or addressing the world on a stage at Times Square.

December madness

This month, college football will complete its playoffs and crown its national champion-at the Division III, Division II, and Championship Subdivision levels, that is. The Bowl Subdivision won't name a top dog until LSU and Ohio State square off Jan. 7 in the BCS title game. Of course, rather than a playoff determining that final matchup, a complex computer algorithm has already completed the task.

Groans over the computer-based BCS system are especially virulent this year, given that so many teams hold valid arguments for their presence in the championship game. Why not give all those teams that chance in a playoff? Wouldn't the value of an undisputed national champion outweigh the loss of tradition-even if such treasured classics as the PapaJohns.com Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl suffered as a result?

The BCS bowl schedule:

ROSE BOWL: USC vs. Illinois
Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m. EST, ABC

SUGAR BOWL: Hawaii vs. Georgia
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. EST, Fox

FIESTA BOWL: Oklahoma vs.West Virginia
Jan. 2, 8 p.m. EST, Fox

ORANGE BOWL: Virginia Tech vs. Kansas
Jan. 3, 8 p.m. EST, Fox

BCS CHAMPIONSHIP: Ohio State vs. LSU
Jan. 7, 8 p.m. EST, Fox

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