By Kendal Connor
“For some athletes, football is the goal, it’s the ultimate. For me, it’s not. Football is just a means to an end,” said Tim Tebow, 2007 Heisman Award winner and former quarterback for the University of Florida.
Tebow was welcomed with warm applause by the Union University and Jackson communities as the keynote speaker for the second annual Roy L. White Legacy Golf and Gala held at the Carl Perkins Civic Center, April 19.
Tebow captured the audience’s attention with a message that merged the seemly opposite worlds of football and faith.
With Tebow’s selection in the National Football League draft only four days after the Union event, his future in the sport was one of the leading questions of the night.
“It has always been my dream since I was 6 years old to play quarterback in the NFL and that’s what I’m going to try to do, play quarterback in the NFL,” Tebow said.
Tebow’s dream came true four days later when he was selected as the No. 25 pick in the first round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.
Yet, Tebow made it clear in his message for the gala that football is not and will never be his foundation. Instead, the all-star athlete discussed what his “passion” is and how football is merely an outlet for him to fulfill that desire.
“My passion is to change lives, to inspire lives, to encourage lives. That is what my foundation is all about and that is what I want to be all about,” Tebow said. “My passion is going to live so much longer than my football career. I’m using football as a platform to have an opportunity — a responsibility — to be a role model to the next generation … to be able to share my faith.”
Tebow geared his message directly toward the concept of his foundation. He spoke to the audience about how they, too, can have a life of purpose, a life of significance and a life of meaning.
Even with much of the focus being on the evening’s keynote speaker, the golf and gala event was also a way to honor Union and its benefactors. The gala opened with a welcome from Dr. Charles Fowler, senior vice president for university relations, and the announcement of the golf tournament winners from earlier in the day.
Then a video was shown that represented the achievements and highlights from Union this past academic year. The video showed how Union is currently living out its own personal foundations of being excellence-driven, Christ-centered, people-focused and future directed. The presentation included the academic achievements of Union faculty and students, an overview of the Nursing Department’s trip to Haiti, a mention of Union’s placement in the National Community Service Honor Roll and an inside look into the research being done at the Union pharmacy lab.
After the video presentation, Roy L. White, the title sponsor of the event, gave a word of thanks to those in attendance and introduced Tebow.
Tebow began his message with a few jokes and once the crowd was engaged, he began to share his personal journey through his football career and how it has aided him in living a life of purpose. He related stories of how he chose to attend the University of Florida, how his team won their national title over Oklahoma University, and how after wearing John 3:16 on his cheeks for the first time, within 24 hours, 94 million people Googled the verse.
At the conclusion of Tebow’s message, Fowler came back on stage for a question-and-answer time with questions submitted by the audience.
At the end of the gala, Fowler presented Tebow with a gift of gratitude, which included a Union Bulldogs’ baseball cap and a copy of Dr. David S. Dockery’s book, “Renewing Minds,” which Fowler referred to as the “playbook” for Union.
White said he believed the event was a success.
“The work that the people here at Union do is something else,” White said. “I just enjoy getting together with all these people. Just look out in the audience, most of these people were here last year and I am hoping they will be here again next year.”