Tim Tebow’s fellow on-air ESPN personalities surprised him before Monday’s college football national championship game with the announcement that he had been accepted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Joe Tessitore launched into the list of the 18 players and four coaches inducted this year, but did not include Tebow, who played quarterback for the University of Florida from 2006 to 2009.
The Gators won the national championship in 2007 and 2009, and Tebow won Most Valuable Player honors in the 2009 BCS national championship game. He took home the Heisman Trophy in 2007. Tebow was also the first player in NCAA history with at least 20 rushing and passing touchdowns in a season.
The 2023 @cfbhall class is stacked!
— ESPN (@espn) January 9, 2023
After listing this year’s inductees, including University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush and Syracuse University defensive end Dwight Freeney, Tessitore said, “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.”
Highlights from Tebow’s career appeared on the screen. Tessitore walked over to Tebow, saying, “Timmy, congratulations,” and gave him a hug, as did fellow ESPN co-hosts Jesse Palmer and Dan Muller.
“If there has ever been a first-ballot College Football Hall of Famer, it’s this guy,” said Palmer, who also played quarterback for Florida and went on to play in the NFL.
Tessitore praised Tebow, saying, “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.”
Steve Hatchell, president of the National Football Foundation, then joined the four on the field and gave Tebow a football commemorating his induction into the Hall of Fame.
“This is incredible,” Tebow responded. “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 mentioned 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 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 added.
Tebow tweeted afterward, “Just incredibly honored and grateful for the opportunity and all who helped make it possible!! All glory to God.”
Following his time at Florida, Tebow played three seasons in the NFL. He now focuses much of his time on charity work through the Tim Tebow Foundation.
The non-profit has been fighting human trafficking for years, saving thousands around the world. The foundation also sponsors a program to fulfill the dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses.
Last year, Tebow, an outspoken follower of Jesus Christ, received the Sports Impact Award at the Christian radio K-LOVE Fan Awards.
“Ultimately, there is only one MVP,” he said during his acceptance speech, “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.”
“We have a big job. Let’s go get our job done.”