December 14, 2007


Sports and faith intersect—again

Another chapter was recently written in the book where sports and faith intersect through everyday life, this time with the awarding of the Heisman Trophy in college football.

We’ve shared stories in the past year about how faith helps shape members of the national organization Catholic Athletes for Christ, Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy and several of his players, and Indiana University football coach Bill Lynch.

But the latest chapter is about a mother who chose life for her yet-to-be born son.

It seems quite appropriate during Advent—a time of waiting for people of faith—to share the story of Tim Tebow, the University of Florida Gators sophomore quarterback who on Dec. 8 won the Heisman Trophy, the prestigious award given annually to college football’s best player.

If you are a college football fan, you have seen or read about how Tebow stands out on the football field. At 6 foot, 3 inches and 235 pounds, he is not extremely large by football standards, but his statistics—including a National Collegiate Athletic Association record 29 passing touchdowns and 22 rushing touchdowns in 2007—show why he commands respect from his coaches, teammates and opposition.

For his outstanding season, Tebow become the first-ever underclassmen (freshman or sophomore) to win the Heisman Trophy.

“I am fortunate, fortunate for a lot of things,” Tebow said upon accepting the award in New York. “God truly blessed me and this just adds on. It’s an honor. I’m so happy to be here.”

But that is only part of Tim Tebow’s story.

As we learned in an interview with ESPN college football analyst Chris Fowler after winning the award, Tebow is breaking records, and making his parents and family proud because of his mother’s courage and faith.

In 1985, Tim’s parents, Bob and Pam Tebow, moved to the Philippines to serve as Christian missionaries.

It was during their three-year stay there that they prayed to conceive another child.

Unfortunately, as The Gainesville Sun reported, Pam fell into a coma after she contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine caused by a parasite found in contaminated food or drink.

Her treatment required a series of strong medications and, as a result of those medications, doctors told Pam that the fetus had been irreversibly damaged. They strongly advised her to have an abortion.

But Pam refused because of her faith.

She spent the last two months of her pregnancy on bed rest, and gave birth on Aug. 14, 1987, to a healthy baby boy that the family named Timothy.

Twenty years later, the youngest of the five Tebow children beamed after being awarded the Heisman. And he openly talked about the faith passed on by his parents, who moved the family back to Florida in 1990 but continue to run a family-based ministry program in the Philippines.

“I’m just thankful for my mom because doctors were telling her—when I was in the womb—that she might not make it with me, and to have an abortion, and she stuck it out and was strong,” Tebow told Fowler. “Hopefully, I think that’s where I get a little bit of my strength—from her.

“I’m so thankful for her and all my family.”

On arguably one of the biggest stages of the college football season, Tim Tebow’s life story brought to light—again—how many athletes are not afraid to bring their faith to the forefront.

And we learned how, despite various medical opinions offered, Tebow’s mom, Pam, chose life.

As Catholics and people of faith, we thank the Tebows for sharing their affirming story of faith. We again see an example where pro-life convictions cross faith traditions.

We have seen the bumper stickers and billboards: “Abortion stops a beating heart.” “It’s a child, not a choice.”

Those messages should cause us to pause and think about the more than 47 million unborn children who have died as a result of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.

Which of those children was destined to become a doctor who would help find a much-needed medical cure? Or an advocate meant to fight poverty and homelessness from a global perspective? Or a great athlete who would inspire millions?

What we have learned is that through God all things are possible.

Tim Tebow, 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, is living proof of that.

—Mike Krokos

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