He was the first sophomore in history to win a Heisman trophy. He was the first college football player both to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Last year, he led his college team, the Florida Gators, to their second national championship in three years. At 6 feet 3 inches and 245 pounds, Tim Tebow may go down in history as the greatest college football player who ever lived.
And to think none of that would have happened if not for a decision his mother made nearly 23 years ago.
That is the message of a controversial new ad starring Tebow and his mother, Pam. Paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, the ad tells the story of Bob and Pam Tebow, who was pregnant with their fifth child when the couple travelled to the Philippines on a missionary trip.
While there, Pam contracted amoebic dysentery and the medicines used for her recovery threatened her unborn fetus. Doctors advised her to abort the fetus. Pam ignored their advice and gave birth on Aug. 14, 1987, to a baby boy. That boy was Tim Tebow.
Now arguably the highest profile player in college football for the past several years, Tebow cites his mother's decision as a key reason he chose to participate in the Focus on the Family ad, which created a mild uproar after CBS agreed to air it on Super Bowl Sunday.
"I know some people won't agree with it," said Tebow of the 30-second ad at a press conference in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday, in preparation for next weekend's Senior Bowl. "But I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe. I've always been very convicted of [his views on abortion] because that's the reason I'm here, because my mom was a very courageous woman."
Tebow has long been open about his strong Christian beliefs and family values. Focus on the Family says the ad will highlight the theme "Celebrate family, celebrate life."
The spot will mark a departure for the Super Bowl, which draws the largest TV audience every year and usually has commercials featuring dancing lizards or fortune-telling snow globes.
The major television networks have previously declined to air polarizing advocacy ads. In 2004, CBS and its competitors rejected an ad by the United Church of Christ, welcoming gays and others who may have felt felt snubbed by more conservative churches. At the time, CBS was heavily criticized. It says that in recent months, it has run more issue-oriented advertising, such as ones for health care.
Gary Schneeberger, a spokesperson from Focus on the Family told ABC News he was puzzled over the controversy surrounding the ad.
"There is nothing political or controversial about the spot. It's a personal story about the love between a mother and son," he said.
But a national coalition of women's groups is calling on CBS not to air the ad.
"This campaign is about holding CBS and the NFL and the other Super Bowl advertisers accountable," said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center, "for inserting an exceedingly controversial issue into a place where we all hope Americans will be united, not divided, in terms of watching America's most-watched sporting event."
A spokesperson for CBS told the Associated Press that the network had approved the script for the ad and that it would ensure that any issue-oriented ad was "appropriate for air."