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Former college football standout and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner for his record-setting play at the University of Florida, got a career-defining surprise during a segment on ESPN ahead of Monday’s National Championship game between the University of Georgia and TCU.
ESPN colleague Joe Tessitore began by listing the 18 players and four coaches who were inducted into this year’s College Football Hall of Fame, but the list did not include Tebow, who played quarterback for the Gators from 2006 to 2009, during which he led the team to a pair of national championships in 2007 and 2009.
Tebow won the Most Valuable Player honor in the 2009 BCS national championship game, and he won the Heisman Trophy in 2007. In addition, he was also the first player in NCAA history with at least 20 rushing and passing touchdowns in a season.
After ticking off the list of this year’s inductees, a class that includes the University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush and Syracuse University defensive end Dwight Freeney, Tessitore noted on-air, “I forgot one name here.”
“The graphic was missing this because we also have a new Hall of Famer. He is arguably the most popular, the most successful, the singularly most impactful college football quarterback of the last generation or perhaps ever to play,” Tessitore said.
Then, as highlights from Tebow’s collegiate career began to play, Tessitore walked over to the former quarterback to inform him that he, too, had been inducted this year.
“Timmy, congratulations,” he said while giving him a hug along with fellow ESPN co-hosts Jesse Palmer and Dan Muller.
The 2023 @cfbhall class is stacked!
The moment @TimTebow found out he made it in his first year of eligibility was special ❤️ pic.twitter.com/hLveOM2bCT
— ESPN (@espn) January 9, 2023
“If there has ever been a first-ballot College Football Hall of Famer, it’s this guy,” noted Palmer, who also played quarterback for Florida and went on to play in the NFL as well.
“We know what you were as a player, but your commitment to the sport and the goodness that you’ve brought to everybody through the sport — you’re a Hall of Famer in every possible way,” Tessitore offered as well.
At that, Steve Hatchell, the president of the National Football Foundation, came out after Tessitore introduced him and gave Tebow a football to commemorate his induction.
“This is incredible. Did you guys plan this or something? Honestly, it’s just so humbling. Thank you. There’s so many people that are a part of this,” he said, going on to mention his coaches and teammates.
“My granddad dreamed of getting the chance to see Florida win an SEC championship and he died before that happened,” he said as he choked back some tears.
“So when we were playing, we were playing for something a lot bigger than just winning or losing a game. Something that’s a lot bigger than just a pigskin. You’re playing for family, for relationships, for loved ones. That’s why college football is unrivaled to me. Special game,” he noted further.
The Heisman winner tweeted after the show, “Just incredibly honored and grateful for the opportunity and all who helped make it possible!! All glory to God.”
The Georgia Bulldogs are this year’s national champion after demolishing the Horned Frogs 65-7.
In May, Tebow was also honored with the Sports Impact Award at the K-LOVE Fan Awards in Nashville, moving some in the audience to tears with a heartfelt speech.
The awards show, which was held in late May, saw Tebow take the opportunity to thank God for his success and talk about how influential Christianity has been in his life.
At one point, he talked about a life-changing event that he experienced when he was 15 and met a boy in a Philippine jungle. The boy was born with his “feet on backward,” Tebow said.
In pained verbiage and as tears welled up in his eyes, he said, “And because of that, his village viewed him as cursed, as insignificant, as a throwaway. But that day, I knew he wasn’t a throwaway to God … and he better not be a throwaway to me.”
The speech moved others to tears in the audience as people applauded him.
“Because ultimately, there is only one MVP, and he died on a cross on a rescue mission for humanity, and he has commanded us to go defend the weak, protect the poor and go after those that are hurting,” he continued.