Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Tebow Inspires through Hard Work and Effort | Speaker for Awards Banquet Was a Passionate High School Student-Athlete

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Tebow Inspires through Hard Work and Effort | Speaker for Awards Banquet Was a Passionate High School Student-Athlete

Article excerpt

BEST OF HT PREPS

SARASOTA -- Craig Howard's first spring practice as Jacksonville Nease High's head football coach had ended an hour or so earlier. Emerging from a staff meeting, Howard gazed at the practice field to notice the burly home-schooled transfer from Trinity Christian.

A freshman linebacker and tight end for the Eagles, Tim Tebow had transferred to Nease to play quarterback for the pass-friendly Howard. So here he was, on the Panther practice field, throwing passes. To no one.

Throw, jog, retrieve football, throw again. For about two hours.

"I said, 'we're going to win the state championship,' " Howard said. "I got a freshman quarterback out here after practice working two hours by himself."

A program without life before Tebow's arrival, Nease won the Class 4A state title his senior season. The future Heisman Trophy winner went on to throw for 9,810 yards and 95 touchdowns in three years as a Panther, rush for 3,186 and score 62 more.

On May 24 at Sarasota's Robarts Arena, headlining the Herald- Tribune's "Best of HT Preps'' awards banquet, Tebow undoubtedly will reflect on his playing career. But the evening's main themes, those of leadership, perseverance and teamwork, Howard said, are what Tebow knows best. He's lived them. Continues to.

"They are so lucky," Howard said. "They could not get a better speaker than Tim Tebow."

He's witnessed it up close. Now the head coach at Southern Oregon University, Howard asked Tebow to fly into Daytona Beach in December before his team's NAIA title game against Marian University to speak to his players.

Tebow carved out time from his busy schedule to do it. For 45 minutes, he spoke to the players and coaches "and not just the kids but the coaches were in awe," Howard said. "They couldn't believe that this composure and this message that he had was so meaningful and it came from the heart.

"He spoke to them about the key elements of being a winner, a teammate and a champion. He was so sincere. …

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