- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our nation certainly honors excellence in athletics, as the millions of people who watched the Super Bowl can attest. Fans may be interested to hear that Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, quarterback for the University of Florida Gators, was home-schooled.

Born in August 1987 under harrowing circumstances to his missionary mother and father who were serving in the Philippines, Tim beat the odds from the very start. His mother went into a coma during the pregnancy due to severe amoebic dysentery, and the drugs used to revive her caused a placental abruption, which often results in stillbirth. Refusing the doctors’ recommendation to abort the pregnancy to save her own life, she was able to carry the baby to term, and named him after the disciple Timothy.

The five Tebow children were home-schooled, joining their parents’ mission work each summer, helping in an orphanage and serving in other ways.

Living in Florida, Tim was able to take advantage of a 1996 statute that allows home-schoolers to play sports for their local school district’s team. Tim’s participation initially raised some controversy due to his status as a home-schooler. In his junior year, however, he was named Florida’s Player of the Year, an honor repeated in his senior year. He was picked for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl of the 78 top seniors playing football, and was courted by several colleges for their teams, finally settling on University of Florida .

He began playing college ball in 2006, and in 2007 earned the coveted Heisman Trophy, and nearly a dozen other awards and trophies.

His status as a home-schooler is always mentioned by those discussing his career. His reaction? “That’s really cool.”

“A lot of times, people have this stereotype of home-schoolers as not very athletic,” he said in one interview about winning the Heisman Trophy. “It’s an honor for me to be the first one to do that.”

Another noted home-schooled athlete, Jason Taylor of the Washington Redskins, also was allowed to play with his school district’s team in Pennsylvania. The example of these two athletes highlights the issue of home-schoolers breaking the barrier that prevents them from playing competitive sports unless enrolled in public school.

Alabama and Kentucky are striving to emulate Florida’s example by allowing home-schoolers to play on school district teams. With the population of home-schoolers increasing rapidly over the last 10 years, it would seem right that they should be able to utilize their athletic talents and have equal access to opportunities, no matter where they study.

Tim’s mother, Pam Tebow, is quoted as having prayed that if her son were to survive, he would be dedicated to God. Through home-schooling — learning and practicing faith side by side with studies and sports — she noted that Tim was never dependent on peer approval.

“He’s able to stand alone. He knows all those little boys wearing number 15 jerseys are watching him,” she said.

Mrs. Tebow says she believes sports provided Tim a way to share his faith.

“You’re always influencing somebody. You’re either influencing them for good or not so good. … It’s your choice.”

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.