Nobody knows when the NFL season will start, but that isn't stopping Tim Tebow from building his brand during the lockout. The Denver Broncos' second-year quarterback recently released his memoir, Through My Eyes (HarperCollins), which replays the stories behind his mother's difficult pregnancy with him, the Heisman trophy win, and the first-round NFL selection. During his college football years, Tebow became noticed among Christians for more than his athletic ability after he put Bible verses on his eye black. CT recently spoke with Tebow about why he remains vocal about his faith, fallen Christian athletes, and the absence of his biblical eye black.
Does it surprise you at all that you've become kind of a Christian celebrity?
I'm blessed to have a little bit of success in football. My biggest goal with that pedestal is to be a good role model and to take that whatever it is (platform, celebrity, whatever you want to call it) and be a great model and inspire. I'm thankful for the ability to share my faith in a lot of different places. It's something that I take as a responsibility and an obligation to handle as best as I can.
I imagine you get some criticism for being outspoken about your faith as being over the top or maybe an attempt to build a certain image. Has being so outspoken about your faith hurt you at all?
Well, being outspoken about my faith isn't just something that I do; it's who I am because my faith isn't just a little piece of my life. It is my life. It's not a question of whether I'm outspoken about it or not. I'm definitely not ashamed of it. And first off, I'm extremely proud of my faith. I try to be as real and honest about everything and very genuine with people and say, "Listen, I'm a Christian and I'm not perfect. I screw up every day, but I think that's what grace is all about."
Other Christians in sports, like Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens, have been quieter about their faith. Is it ever more effective for coaches or athletes in certain positions to be more subtle about their faith? Or is it always good to be open about it?
It's something you have to handle with class and be real about it, not be like overly judgmental or dig into people with other faiths. It's about accepting everybody for who they are and being real with them. They have to handle, as best they can, how they're trying to handle their witness and who they're trying to affect. Every situation is very different.
Even as you're trying to use your platform for good, do you ever wonder or worry about the idea that you might contribute to a culture of celebrity obsession or idolatry?
I don't necessarily think about that too much, but when people look at me or look up to me, hopefully they see that it's not about me. It's having a relationship with Christ, and it's a lot bigger than me. And that's what I'm living for—it's not the money or the fame. It's having a relationship with Christ, impacting a lot of people and trying to help, encourage, and inspire people.
Occasionally we'll see a Christian athlete who has been vocal about their faith fall into alcohol, drugs, or something similar. Do you worry that you might feel the pressures that come with being in professional sports?
People have to realize that just because you're a Christian, it doesn't mean that you're perfect, because every once in a while everyone stumbles. Living by faith is about when you do mess up, getting back up, brushing yourself off, and keep trying to improve where you mess up or where you have temptation. I screw up all the time. I'm not saying you have to be perfect because you can't, but our goal is just trying to improve.