By Ann Liguori
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I’ve been singing Tim Tebow’s praises ever since I met the exceptional young man and his family at the 2008 AAU Sullivan Awards, held at the New York Athletic Club. As the Master of Ceremonies that evening, I had the opportunity to help present the prestigious award to Tim, a few months after he won the Heisman Trophy.

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I met his wonderful parents that evening as well, along with their dear friend, Bill Heavener, a long-time supporter of University of Florida athletics. Bill was kind enough to invite me to sit in his luxury box at ‘The Swamp,’ the following season, which I did, to watch Tim play. I was also honored to be among those in the suite to watch Tim play in his very last home game.

After the games, Tim and his family would visit the group who Jim brought up to the games. Each time Tim came to visit, he was most cordial and polite, interested in everyone who spoke to him and enjoyed playing with his nieces and nephews, who also came to visit. We spoke about a variety of subjects; from the summers he spent doing missionary work in the Philippines to his thoughts about eventually playing in the NFL.

Beyond getting to know Tim and his family and being so impressed with the kind of people they are, every time I watched Tebow play, I was always most impressed with his athletic talents and leadership abilities. After watching him come up with a variety of ways to help the Gators win two National Championships, and observing how he interacted with his teammates, the leadership qualities he possesses, I knew back then he would be a huge success in the NFL.

Well, it did not take long for Tebow to become a national superstar! Whether the Broncos beat the New England Patriots tomorrow or not, much of the country is now obsessed with Tebow. ‘Tebow mania’ is everywhere! Tebow’s popularity is off the charts!

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It’s satisfying to see his success and popularity now, after years of hearing so much criticism directed toward him, criticism ranging from his unorthodox throwing style to his ‘Tebowing,’ and his commitment to Christianity.

An eventual Super Bowl win someday would be incredible for Tebow, however, winning a championship will not define Tim Tebow. To most of his fans, Tebow is already a winner. He is a role model for young people and an inspiration for millions. He’s admired not only for his athletic skills and finding ways to win, but for the courage he has to stand up (or kneel down) to his convictions and the manner in which he leads an exemplary life.

His character speaks volumes more than any result on the football field can. Yes, winning football games is an excellent vehicle for him to inspire people and witness his faith. But don’t think for a moment that a win or a loss against New England or any other game for that matter will affect what I think is most important to Tim Tebow —  inspiring a nation of believers and spreading good will.

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Where do you stand on Tebow? Be heard in the comments below…