Football analyst and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow urged graduates of Trine University Saturday to make a positive difference in others' lives and not to get caught up in worldly pursuits, telling them that money and fame won't bring true satisfaction.
Some of the most famous people in the world, he said, aren't happy.
"The world is going to tell you over and over again [that] what you need to pursue is money, fame, power, praise promotion, platform – all of these things," Tebow said at the commencement of Trine University in Angola, Indiana. "You know what? I've been fortunate at times to have some of them. And I know a lot of people that have a lot of them. And some of the most empty people I know, have the most. It's not going to satisfy you. It's not going to fulfill you."
Before becoming an ESPN analyst and pursuing a career in professional football and baseball, Tebow was one of the most decorated players in the history of college football as a quarterback at the University of Florida. As a backup his freshman year, he helped guide the Gators to a national title. He started as a sophomore and won the Heisman Trophy, and then led Florida to another national title as a junior.
Tebow said his goal his senior year was to win another national title and for the senior class to lay claim to the title of "best ever." Yet that goal was crushed when the Gators lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship.
The loss, he said, was devastating.
"I let it go too far – where it affected who I was and the way I was even treating people," he said.
But an encounter with a girl who was battling brain tumors changed his perspective.
One week after the loss to Alabama, Tebow attended a college football awards show in Orlando, Florida. At a pre-awards banquet the day before the event, he met Kelly Faughnan, a young fan who had always wanted to meet him face-to-face. Her family had driven from Virginia, hoping to fulfill her wishes.
"Kelly has had to fight brain tumors and tremors and so much adversity her entire life," Tebow told the graduates.
Inspired by her story, Tebow asked Faughnan to be his date at the awards show. They walked the red carpet at the ceremony and sat together.
Tebow had been nominated for six awards that night and thought he would win a few, he said. In the end, though, he went 0-for-6. Before the winner of the final award was announced, he said, his mother leaned toward him and whispered, "Timmy, it's alright. You already won tonight. You just don't get your award until heaven."
"I don't even remember what those awards were," he told the graduates. "But I remember Kelly, and I'm still friends with her to this day. And this young girl has overcome so much in her life [and] has raised over $300,000 to be able to impact other people that are going through the same thing that she's gone through. That's a hero. Why? Because she's had perspective. And she changed my perspective."
It's easy, Tebow said, to "get caught up" in worldly pursuits.
"I thought it was [about] another championship, I thought it was another Heisman, I thought it was the praise, promotion. I thought it was everything," Tebow said. "But Kelly taught me it's not everything. I hope you know that what the world is going to tell you is not everything."
Tebow encouraged the graduates to 1) live by their convictions, not their emotions, 2) obtain the right perspective, and 3) be ready to make a difference.
"We're not going to get caught up in everything the world is going to tell us," he said, "but we're going to say 'yes' to our calling – the urgent and divine invitation to accept responsibility for a particular task."
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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Halleran/Staff
Video courtesy: ©Trine University
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.