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You Gotta Love Tim Tebow
AUSTIN MURPHY
July 27, 2009
He's a Heisman Trophy winner and a two-time national champion, but the Florida quarterback will tell you he does his most important and rewarding work off the football field
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July 27, 2009

You Gotta Love Tim Tebow

He's a Heisman Trophy winner and a two-time national champion, but the Florida quarterback will tell you he does his most important and rewarding work off the football field

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Under the heading What We Believe, the BTEA's website details the conservative brand of Christianity it is spreading. The ministry espouses a literal interpretation of the Bible ("This is to say the written Word of God is totally without error of any kind"), supports the teaching of Creationism ("We believe God created the heavens and the earth ... out of nothing in six 24-hour days") and is convinced of the inevitability of the Rapture followed by a seven-year tribulation period. "During this time the antichrist will appear," says the BTEA. Some will be saved, but "many will be martyred."

Asked if there is any wiggle room for people nagged by doubts about, say, the creation of the world in six days or the imminence of the Rapture, Bob strikes a warm, inclusive note. "You don't have to believe everything I believe to be saved," he says. "You just need to believe in the Lord Jesus and trust him to give you the free gift of eternal life, and you can figure out Genesis and all that other stuff later."

A few minutes before arriving at Lawtey, Williams reminds his passengers to leave their phones behind. "They have two cellphone dogs," he says. "The prisoners smuggle 'em in and do business with 'em, so the Florida legislature made it a third-degree felony to have a cellphone in prison."

A guard across the parking lot greets the visitors with an enthusiastic Gator chomp. At the main gate officers collect driver's licenses from the visitors and hand them electronic monitoring devices to be attached to their waistbands. "If you're about to get shanked," Tebow tells Bushell and Jenkins, "you push this button." They think he's kidding, but they're not sure. As if to reinforce their doubts, a guard says, "This ain't the Swamp. We ain't playin' here."

When Tebow finally takes the mike, he is greeted by raucous cheers and more Gator chomps. He asks the convicts, "Who's got the best hands in here?" A tight-end-sized ward of the state claims that he does and runs a pattern under the near baseline. He muffs a pass from Tebow that, to be fair, was thrown slightly behind him.

In a speech punctuated by exclamations of "Amen!" and bursts of static from guards' radios, Tebow relates how, regardless of the venue—weight room, off-season workout, practice field or game—the Florida coaches are always on the Gators to "finish strong." He notes how this ethos fueled a fourth-quarter comeback against Alabama in the SEC title game, then helped break a 7--7 halftime deadlock against Oklahoma.

Yes, the emphasis on finishing strong applied to football, Tebow says. "But more important," he adds, telegraphing his transition, "it applies to life.

"A lot of you have started the first, second and third quarters really bad," he says, and the room falls silent. "You might be losing. But you know what? It doesn't matter. Because it's about how you finish!"

When the cheering fades, Tebow shares with the inmates the fact that as a young boy he cared more about sports than about his Savior. "I told myself, I don't need Jesus," he says. "I was full of pride. It was all about me." If he could see the light, they can too. But, he continues, "you might say, 'I don't want that gift. I'll be fine—I don't need any help!'" Then he asks the convicts a question:

"If you were to die right now, where would you be?" By which he means, in which direction would your soul be headed? "For me," he says, "I have an answer to that question. I am one hundred percent certain I'm going to go to heaven because I have Jesus Christ in my life."

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