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Through My EyesA Quarterback's Journey
By Tim Tebow Nathan Whitaker
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011 Timothy R. Tebow
All right reserved.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. —Romans 8:28 (NASB)
My head was killing me.
It had been a full day already, but as if that weren't enough, now my head was splitting in two. It was horrible timing. I was in New York City for the presentation of the Heisman Trophy, and I'd spent most of the day exploring New York with my family and friends. But it had taken its toll. My head was killing me—a migraine had set in. I guess the travel and schedule had brought it on. I had been traveling nonstop, it seemed, since the conclusion of the regular season a week earlier. I had been blessed enough to win several awards already, including the ones that I was the most proud of, several first-team Academic All-American teams.
The ceremony took place in Times Square, at the Nokia Theatre, as it was then called. There were 2,100 in attendance on December 10, 2008. About twenty of them were pretty nervous for me. Those twenty—my parents, siblings and spouses, close friends, Coach Urban Meyer, and Coach Mickey Marotti from the University of Florida—had been on hand to support me throughout the entire season, as always, in good times and bad.
Statistically, there had been more good than bad that season. I'd thrown for over 2,500 yards with 28 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. I'd also rushed for 564 yards and had 12 touchdowns. But more importantly, as a team, we'd seen far more good than bad as well. We were 12–1 and had only had one close game in the last two months.
Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford were seated beside me on the front row. They had also been nominated for the Heisman, and of course, they had also had great seasons.
We hadn't played either team, yet. We would be facing Oklahoma and Sam Bradford in the BCS National Championship Game a month after the ceremony.
Finally, the moment arrived. As the ceremony unfolded, my head was hurting more and more, and I was feeling nauseated.
The announcement came from the podium, in a moment that none of us would ever forget.
"The Downtown Athletic Club presents the 2008 Heisman Trophy to ... Sam Bradford, University of Oklahoma."
My phone began vibrating and wouldn't stop for hours—texts and voicemails from teammates and coaches, all saying that we would take it to Oklahoma in the championship game. I wasn't paying attention to the phone, though, as Sam accepted the award—the pounding in my head had continued to intensify.
Finally, at a break, I headed out to the bathroom to run cold water over my face. On the way, I passed Coach Meyer and Coach Marotti. I could feel the intensity of their disappointment and anger over my loss as I approached. They were obviously biased in my favor and were two of my biggest supporters.
I caught their eyes and mouthed two words.
Chapter TwoTHE EARLY YEARS
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. —Proverbs 27:2 (NASB)
My dad has preached a lot in America, but one of his favorite places to preach is a country in Asia called the Philippines. Before I was born, my family was living in Mindanao, in the Philippines, and my dad was doing mission work there. Anyone who talks to others about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is doing mission work.
One day when my dad was out preaching in the jungle, he prayed, "Father, if You want another preacher in this world, You give him to me. You give me Timmy, and I will raise him to be a preacher."
Dad returned home and told my family about his prayer. He invited them to join him in praying for me by name, and they all prayed for me. The name Timothy means "honoring God."
A few months later, my mom realized that she was pregnant. From the start, it was a difficult pregnancy. A number of times they were certain they had lost me. Mom and Dad went to the best doctor in their area of Mindanao and listened to her lay out their options—in her opinion—for how to save my mom's life. The doctor was brutally honest about her opinion of my mom's chances. She said that the pregnancy was going to be hard and dangerous.
When my parents walked out of her office, they were in shock and felt a bit numb. They knew that Mom would have to be very brave and trust God. Her strongest recollection of those moments, which must have been overwhelming for her, was an unexpected and indescribable peace. God's peace, she later told me, is what helped her through the next eight months of her pregnancy.
And while they waited for me to be born, my mom and brothers and sisters would sing Bible verses together. Mom thought that putting verses to tunes helped us to learn and retain them. Later, they taught these verses to me:
Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord, wait for the Lord. I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait. And in His Word do I hope. —Psalm 27:14, 130:5
Miraculously, later on in the pregnancy, a surprise blessing occurred. Mom, who had been very sick, began to feel better, even well enough to fly, along with my siblings, Christy, Katie, Robby, and Peter, to Manila. There, at the Makati Medical Center, she met with an American-trained doctor. She had not seen a doctor for many months.
My family's waiting was over on August 14, 1987, when I was delivered by the doctor my parents trusted. The doctor spoke first to my dad. "Mr. Tebow, your child is a miracle baby. I can't explain how it happened, but despite all odds, he beat them."
My mom, dad, and family were so grateful for my safe arrival and thanked the Lord for His protection of both my mom and me. But the drama was not over yet—for either of us.
That first week, I lost weight instead of gaining it and had to remain in the hospital. My parents asked our friends and family in America to pray that I would grow big and strong. I guess their prayers were answered!
Mom also struggled physically and needed ongoing care, but slowly, she got better.
We are all so grateful Mom survived the pregnancy and childbirth. My parents knew that Mom might not survive, but they trusted God with her pregnancy. Trusting God is how they started their marriage and how they have continued to this day. My dad always tells us that faith is like a muscle. You trust God for the small things and when He comes through, your muscle grows. It grows whether He comes through in ways that you hoped for or not—you learn that He's always there through good or bad. This enables you to trust God for the bigger things, in fact, for all things.
My memories of my life—at least those I myself can remember—begin in Jacksonville, Florida. We returned from the Philippines when I was three.
It was great growing up with two older sisters and two older brothers always around to play with. Actually, all of us were very competitive, including my parents and all my siblings. It didn't matter if it was Monopoly or chess inside with my sisters or baseball or basketball outside with my brothers—or if I was only four and the rest of them were far older. The rules applied equally to all. There was no "letting someone win" because he was younger, or to cheer her up or encourage her to keep playing. The first time I won any of those games or contests, I earned it.
It was something I remembered.
Most of my first clear memories seem to revolve around sports and all the crazy stuff I did trying to be just like Robby and Peter. I wanted to do everything they did, despite the fact that they were nine and six years old when we returned from the Philippines and I was three. We were in constant motion, always playing whatever game was in season or, if for some reason one of those didn't interest us, just the ones that we made up ourselves.
My dad says that I wasn't much fun to throw with, even at age four. Even then I was a bit too intense and threw pretty hard. A lot of my competitiveness was probably just how I was wired, but part of it was because I looked up to my brothers and wanted to be just like them. I wanted to be as strong as my brothers, so when I was a bit older, I used surgical tubing that was attached to the top of the door. My dad wouldn't let me use any weights. He didn't feel they were safe for me at that age. He thought the rubber tubing would produce results that were just as good. While my brothers and I were sitting or standing around talking or doing whatever we were doing—and it was always something—I wasted no time and would stand in front of the door and pull against the tubing, working each shoulder. For thirty minutes or so. Looking back, I'm not sure why I didn't tire of it, but I didn't and simply kept pulling on the tubing, working each shoulder. Over and over.
When it came time to play T-ball at age five, I had already played a lot of actual player pitch with my brothers. The idea of hitting off of a tee didn't interest me. So instead of my using a tee for my at bats, my coach at the Normandy Athletic Association would toss the ball to me underhand, while my brothers took great pride—maybe even more than I did—in watching me hit ball after ball over the fence during the course of the baseball season. Peter claims I hit thirty-six home runs that year. Then again, he was eight at the time and maybe not the best and most unbiased source of information for keeping the records. I know, though, that I finished second in the league in home runs to a kid who was two years older. I made a commitment to myself right then and there that that would be my last year of finishing second.
I do know that I didn't play Little League baseball just for the fun of playing. I can't help it—but that's true. When I hear parents tell their kids today, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, as long as you have fun," I'm puzzled. That's just not how I'm wired. Bottom line, losing simply isn't any fun. Oh sure, in thinking back on plays and moments, I knew I was loving every minute of playing the game. But if there's a score, then there's a purpose to the game beyond having fun. Of course, there is value in playing the game itself and how well you play it, and always playing to the best of your ability, but at some point, the actual competition has to be a piece of the analysis as well. After all, there'd be no point to the rules or to keeping score if it were simply and only about having fun.
I had two brothers who beat me at everything, at every turn, as badly as they could. So when I played anything with them, I wanted to win. When our coach would say, "I just wanted to make sure you're having fun," I didn't understand. And when my teammates seemed more interested in ice cream or snow cones after the game, especially if it was a game we lost, I was baffled and upset. I couldn't understand why they bothered to play. Just go get dessert without bothering to be on the team, I figured. What's the point?
That outlook may have had an impact on my ability as a teammate back then. In T-ball, I was friends with the other players, and I remember very few of them then who could catch or throw. Early in the games, I would tolerate this, but as it got later and more critical to the outcome, I found myself wanting the ball in my hands.
Once, in the last inning of a close game, the ball was hit to me at shortstop. I fielded it and ran down the runner, who was breaking from third to score, for the final out. After the game, the coach asked me why I didn't throw it to the catcher. The question puzzled me because I thought the answer would have been obvious to him.
"Because he can't catch."
"Well, he's the catcher. You're supposed to throw it to him for him to try and catch it to get the runner out. That's how you do it."
I was sure—no, I was positive—that wasn't how you do it. I wasn't interested in someone's "trying to catch" the ball with the game on the line. I also wasn't interested in someone's trying to remember if he was supposed to tag the base or the runner. If he didn't know what to do, I would do it myself. I would let him try to catch early on, but I wanted to win. When the game was on the line, I would do whatever I had to—within the rules—to win the game.
My parents decided that, with three boys around the house who were as competitive as we were, we had to institute a new rule. I was still young, and they were already concerned about the bragging that we were doing among ourselves. Here was the rule: We were forbidden from talking about our own accomplishments, unless asked first by someone else. If someone specifically asked us how the game went or how we played, we could answer, but we couldn't volunteer the information. They based this new rule on Proverbs 27:2:
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.
It was a great lesson for us to learn to live our lives with a humble spirit, a lesson we needed to learn and continue to work on. Our parents certainly have always lived their lives with humility.
We did, though, have family friends who knew the rule, and before long, they'd help us out by asking us on a Sunday morning at church, "Any of you boys had any games lately? Anything happen?" And so we would fill them in.
But at the same time, we began to realize that it was nicer to not hear ourselves brag, and so over time, we all just began talking about ourselves less and less.
Plus, we were given a dollar if someone complimented us on our character to Mom or Dad. We quickly became focused on those matters—such as character and humility—rather than on trying to impress someone with our exploits on or off the field.
A year and a half after moving back from the Philippines, my family moved onto a farm. Life on the farm, like anything, had its pros and cons.
The good news? There was plenty of room for batting practice without losing a ball in a neighbor's yard or worrying about a nearby window, and to play whatever other games we wanted to play.
The bad news? My dad made it perfectly clear that ours was a working family farm, and he and Mom were thrilled to have three healthy boys available every day for all the manual labor life on a farm required.
Actually, even that was good news, as I look back on it. Shortly after we moved, I became "farmer strong," simply from lifting hay bales or chopping wood or chasing down cows.
Dad used to hold batting practice in one corner of the yard, and we dented the fence more than once from pitches that he threw to us or we threw to each other while working on our pitching technique. We would hit balls—for hours on end—toward the tree line on the other side of the pasture. Even with all the extra farm chores we had to do, living on the farm was tremendous. On one occasion, we had a visit from a former White Sox pitcher, Joel Davis. He wasn't going to be able to care for his dog any longer, so he dropped him at our house. The dog, named White Sox because of his white feet, became a family fixture. So did the stories of the balls that Joel hit that day into the tree line across the pasture.
Dad finally wised up before he threw so much that he tore up his shoulder. So he bought some fishnet to make a batting cage. With a number of four-by-four posts, we built what turned out to be a pretty sturdy and functional structure, and then we put a pitching machine in it. From that point forward, we were set. We could pitch to each other to our hearts' content, without fear of losing baseballs to the surrounding woods. All with no further wear and tear on Dad's shoulder.
Somewhere in there, in all the time spent with the stretchy surgical bands or the competitive streak in T-ball or the endless hours of batting practice, I realized that I never wanted to "fit in." As I look back now, it was clear that very early on the seeds of that concept began taking root and sprouting within me in everything I did. As I got older and heard kids talk about wanting to "fit in," or wanting to be "normal," I never quite understood why they felt that way. What's the point of being "normal"? That sounds average to me, and I never felt like I was created to be average.
So if everybody was doing the same thing, the normal and usual thing, I looked for a different way. Members of the crowd don't want to stick out, so they act like everyone else. If we're all special in the same way, then nobody really is special. Being like everyone else ignores the fact that we were each created with gifts and abilities like no one else's—and that we can use those unique gifts and abilities to do something special.
You and I were created by God to be so much more than normal. My parents always told us that was true of each of my siblings and me.
Following the crowd is not a winning approach to life. In the end, it's a loser's game, because we never become who we were created to be. I figured that out when I was five, but I couldn't have expressed it then. I just knew that I wanted to be different in those areas that excited me. I wanted to be me—and then I began to understand that I wanted to be who God created me to be.
The most important thing that ever happened to me took place when I was six. At the time, I knew I was ready to invite Jesus into my heart, to accept what He had done for me to allow me to go to heaven.
I tried talking about the decision with my dad first. We talked about Bible verses every day as a family, and I'd heard him preach somewhere around a million times by then. Every time I tried to bring it up with Dad, he would question me on my understanding of the gospel message to make sure I was serious about this big decision. His questions frustrated me!
Excerpted from Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow Nathan Whitaker Copyright © 2011 by Timothy R. Tebow. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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