We’ve all seen the ads: Pro sports star wins a huge game, and in the ensuing celebratory bedlam encounters a camera and a voice behind it that says, “You’ve just won the biggest game of your career. What’s next?”
The answer, a stroke of marketing genius by the House That Walt Built: “I’m going to DisneyWorld.”
But Tim Tebow – if we’ve learned anything at all about him by now – is not your typical NFL star. The young man known on the field for orchestrating thrilling last-minute comebacks for his Denver Broncos, and off the field for his uncompromising Christian faith, got the well-worn “How does it feel?” question after the team’s astonishing overtime win against the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. And his response had nothing to do with a theme park – and not much to do with winning his first-ever NFL playoff game.
“Football is amazing. We love it. We’re so passionate about it,” Tebow said in his postgame news conference Sunday. “But the real win, at least I would say today, is being able to comfort a girl who has gone through 73 surgeries before the game and get a chance to go hang out with her now.
“That’s the biggest win of the day. They’re both exciting, but that’s what I’m even more proud of.”
The quarterback was talking about Bailey Knaub, a high-schooler from Loveland, Colo., suffering from granulomatosis, a rare vascular disorder that has cost her a lung. She got the VIP treatment at Sports Authority Field at Mile High courtesy of the W15H Program (the “Wish” Program, with Tebow’s uniform number standing in for the “I” and “S”), just one of many charitable outreaches of Tebow’s nonprofit foundation.
“After warm-up, he walked over to me and gave me the football and said we’d talk after they won the game and he’d sign the football later,” Bailey told her hometown newspaper. “He talked to me for like a minute, and he called me by name. I was almost squealing I was so happy.”
We talk a lot at Focus on the Family about the need, as Christians, to live lives equally steeped in orthodoxy (the study of God’s Word) and orthopraxy (the doing of His Word). The Bible’s exhortations to care for the less fortunate, to consider others greater than ourselves, to lay down our lives for the sake of a friend, are not merely or even primarily instructive historical stories. They’re modern-day, everyday responsibilities for us as believers – and the example Tim Tebow sets in living up to those responsibilities is far more important than anything he accomplishes on a football field.
Bailey Knaub might be the most well-known of the children and young adults helped by the W15H Program. but she’s hardly the only one. Among the others honored this year by the outreach that receives about 600 letters from needy kids per week:
Woody Roseland, 21, of Denver, who met Tebow before the Broncos’ Sept. 12 home opener against the Oakland Raiders. Struck by cancer at 16, Roseland has overcome many obstacles, including being diagnosed with the disease on five occasions.
Garrett Atwood, 16, of Winter Springs, Fla., diagnosed in September 2010 with a life-threatening illness known as arteriovenous malformation, a disease that affects the connections of the arteries and veins. Following his diagnosis, Atwood was hospitalized for two and a half months and endured several weeks of rehab just to learn how to walk and talk again. On Oct 23, before Denver’s road game against the Miami Dolphins, he met his hero.
Adam Hubbs, 16, of St. Louis, who always dreamed playing in front of thousands as a pro football player. In 2008, though, he was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening blood disorder. Hubbs has faced many medical battles in the years since then, including being in a coma for five weeks and suffering a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body. But on Oct. 9, before the Broncos’ home game against the San Diego Chargers, he finally had that opportunity to step on the pro field he had always dreamed of – alongside Tebow.
It’s hard to remember a time when the nation’s attention was as fixed – not just in the sports pages but on the news pages as well – on a single football player the way it has been on Tim Tebow this season. How refreshing, and how challenging for his fellow believers, that as all this craziness is swirling around him, his attention is focused on putting feet to his faith – even when they aren’t carrying him toward the goal line.