God Does Work in Mysterious Ways: How Tim Tebow Returned to the NFL With His College Coach

Phil Sandlin

God does work in mysterious ways.

Tim Tebow would agree. And now the devout Christian athlete has shown it again.

What a story! And, by the way, brilliant business decision.

The 33-year-old Heisman Trophy winner (first college sophomore to win that) and National Champion quarterback with the Gators of Florida is returning to the National Football League back in the Sunshine State for the bottom-dwelling Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jacksonville team is now coached by – wait for it – Tebow’s former collegiate coach, Urban Meyer, who’s branded success wherever he’s gone as a football coach at four universities.

Now, Meyer will attempt to work his winning magic at the pro level with Tebow, who will play tight end this time catching passes from – wait for it again – this year’s No. 1 draft pick and latest Heisman Trophy winner, Trevor Lawrence.

Tebow is expected to sign a one-year deal with the Jags after the team’s rookie mini-camp this week, according to the NFL Network.

Have you purchased tickets yet?

I’ve not been an SEC football fan. But Tebow has been, in my eyes, one of sports’ most compelling and inspiring stories in recent years–in part for what he’s not done. He’s not been arrested for drugs, early morning bar fights, spousal abuse, or any of the other common pro football news stories.

Numerous pro athletes establish charitable foundations. Tebow’s provides proms for children with special needs, children who might have been aborted.

Tebow had a three-year NFL career with Denver and the New York Jets with a mediocre record, except for a stunning 2012 playoff win in Denver. Then, he pursued a baseball career, rising through the levels of the New York Mets farm system.

There, he earned a reputation for leadership. Picture the millionaire, far older than the kids on the team, sleeping on the floor of the team bus traveling through the night.

Tebow always made time for fans. He and his never-give-up reputation won their adoration for that and for his devotion to children with special needs, mainly Downs Syndrome.

Tebow’s Night to Shine Foundation organizes proms for thousands of them across the country, causing many adults to claim they just have something in their eye.

In the minors in both Florida and New York, Tebow’s rock-star status and fame and clean presence brought thousands of new ticket-buyers fans into team stadiums at home and at every road game. Teams made fortunes off sales of No. 15 Tebow jersey. Yes, (Full disclosure: I have one thanks to a son.)

The 6-3, left-handed Tebow had moments of pro success, including a dramatic 2012 playoff win for Denver’s Broncos, who didn’t deserve someone so clean. But Tebow earned the enmity of numerous media types during his NFL years because he didn’t participate in the usual show-off histrionics after any on-field success.

After wins or touchdowns – are you still waiting? – he was seen to quietly kneel and pray, a quiet act that became known as Tebowing.

That was before pro athletes kneeling turned from a quiet sign of devotion to a defiant player protest during the National Anthem under the leadership of another short-term quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. My colleague Brandon Morse has the down-low on that pathetic chapter.

Timothy Richard Tebow was born in the Philippines, the son of Baptist missionaries. Doctors told Robert and Pam Tebow they should abort the baby to protect her own health. They said No.

And thus began her son’s life-long, well, pro-life, stand and open religious observance that apparently made some people uncomfortable.

But not Urban Meyer, who was actually named for a Catholic Pope. Meyer is the only NCAA football coach to win 20 games in three conferences—at Utah when it was in the Mountain West, Florida in the SEC and, most recently, Ohio State in the Big Ten, where Meyer won another national championship.

Meyer has a career coaching record of .854 but admitted this winter that he’s likely to experience more losing at the pro level with Jacksonville than he’s used to, at least at first.

He’s been cleaning the sad-sack organization of players and scouts and said he was looking for former players who know his system and work ethic. There will be six of those now, including Luke Farrell and Carlos Hyde from Ohio State years.

Meyer’s tight end coach gave the newly-married Tebow a tryout in the offseason and reportedly came away impressed.

“Obviously Urban knows Tim really well,” said Jags owner Tony Khan. “And Tim’s got a great history of winning. Urban really believes he can help us. I think it makes a lot of sense. And it’s a position where we need to get better.” Be sure to stock up a lot of Tebow jerseys.

Meyer became a Tebow fan in the 2006 season. He made the player a backup for the season but called on Tebow once during a goal-line situation. The rookie rushed for a touchdown on his first collegiate play.

Meyer says he’s not doing Tebow a favor. “I have one job and that is to win games with the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Meyer said. “If Tim Tebow or Travis Etienne can help us win, then that’s my job to get them ready to go play.”

But last winter Meyer tellingly noted, “I’ve gone into battle with Tim many times.”

Now, he’ll do that again at the pro level. In fact, last month Meyer even bought a new house just down the street from the hometown Tebow.