By Robbie McCabe

Like most avid sports fan, I have a select group of sports figures that I admire, ranging from the superhuman quarterback Tom Brady to the Olympic middle distance runner gold medalist Matt Centrowitz. However, one phenomenal athlete and superb talent stands out as my favorite athlete, Tim Tebow. Yes, you read that correctly. The 6-4”, 245-pound quarterback from Jacksonville, Florida. The young man who has received nothing but ridicule from the day he entered the National Football League. The young man who is perhaps the greatest college football player of all time with two National Championships, multiple passing records and an obscure award called the Heisman Trophy. Yet, the importance of Mr. Tebow goes way beyond the gridiron. I believe his impact on America will out-last the lights in the end zone. In a country with a culture as divided as we are today, kids could use somebody like Tim to look up to, like I did.

As an athlete, Tim has accomplished some major accomplishments in his career. By the time Tebow graduated from the University of Florida, he had 5 NCAA and 14 Southeastern Conference records and 28 other statistical records. He has ranked second in passer efficiency and owns the record for most games with a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown. Oh and he won the Heisman Trophy as a Sophomore. To put that all in perspective, he’s beaten out some very good college athletes in some of these records such as Johnny Manziel and a relatively unknown quarterback named Peyton Manning. Moving forward to his NFL career, in his miraculous 2012 postseason run, Tim threw more than 3+ 50 passing yards in a game, which hadn’t been done in the NFL since 1970. He averaged 31.6 yards per completion in that game which up to that point was the highest in postseason NFL history. Tim has certainly impressed me as an athlete, however, as mentioned, those accolades aren’t what makes Tebow my favorite athlete.

Every year the Tim Tebow Foundation runs an event called the Night to Shine which is a prom for young adults 14 and over with special needs and this year on February 10th, Tebow hosted 75,000 guests from over 375 churches all over the world. In the first year alone his organization, the Tim Tebow Foundation, raised over $4 million to help orphans and kids battling rare diseases. Personally, those statistics and actions matter a lot more than a football game.

I understand that many people have reservations about Tim Tebow because of his outspoken religious faith, but that makes me respect him even more. Not because of his evangelical preaching or the messages behind them. That is up for each person to decide. However, I do respect Tim for his courage to profess his religious faith. In this country freedom of religion and expression of that religion is a right granted to all Americans under the Constitution. As our National Anthem eloquently states, “We Are One Nation Under God”, which is a traditional tenet our forefathers carried with them to this new world known as America. What’s so wrong with freedom of expression? This young man is practicing his constitutional right to express his religious beliefs just like anyone less famous does. He shouldn’t be ridiculed for openly expressing his religion, if anything, we should encourage more of it. It is a right that everyone in this country has regardless of your religious background or preference.

Another reason that I love Tim Tebow is his relentless optimism and desire to never quit. Tebow was cut twice in the same year by both the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been told by multiple coaches, such as former Denver Broncos head coach John Fox, that he would be better as a tight end option, yet he was convinced that he would be a quarterback in the National Football League. Contrary to every sports analyst and football fanatic, Tim decided to continue his dream of being a quarterback. If he wanted the advertisements and more money it certainly would have been there for him if he stayed in the NFL. His playoff game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers drew in 42.3 million viewers in 2012, which was the second most watched game that season next to the Super Bowl. Then after not playing football for a couple of years, he decided to play baseball and was eventually signed to a minor league contract by the New York Mets.

Some call his endless pursuit to play quarterback or play baseball as sure signs of arrogance or stubbornness. I think these acts show perseverance.  It shows that if you believe in yourself even when others doubt you, you can still be successful. Tim didn’t want to change to conform to the wants or needs of what others wanted him to be and that is why his legacy will carry on. At the end of the day, whether you like him or dislike him, you can accept that he is who he is. He isn’t hiding anything. He’s not hiding from anyone. Tim Tebow will always just a be a kid from Jacksonville who impacted me and probably many other people more than he will ever realize.