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Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Tim Tebow paces the sideline during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

It was probably always a long shot, this notion of a 34-year-old Tim Tebow returning to the National Football League at a position (tight end) he'd never played before.

There's a reason why the NFL is sometimes known as "Not For Long," and even with Urban Meyer — his old college coach at Florida — now running the show for Tebow's hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL remains a business first and foremost. Sentimentality is a luxury Meyer and the Jags just don't have at the moment.

So if Tebow couldn't cut it on the field for the Jags at tight end, he deserved to be cut by the organization in order to make room for someone else who deserved a shot at that position. That's meritocracy at its finest.

But this doesn't mean Tebow was wrong to try to return to the NFL for the first time since the 2015 preseason or that his legacy should take a hit for the effort, because Tebow's greatest strength may actually be the words from his lips rather than the work from his hips.

It was less than a year ago, November 15, 2020 to be exact, that I visited the Redemption to the Nations Church on Bailey Avenue to hear Tebow speak to a crowd of close to 500. Fortunately more of them than not wore masks and social distanced.

And as he so often was on the football field in winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy and helping the Gators claim two national championships, Tebow was electric that evening, his words overflowing with passion and conviction and inspiration.

On a video that played before he spoke in person, some of his athletic accomplishments flashing across the screen, Tebow didn't say anything about wanting to return the the NFL as a tight end. Instead, he said, "I want to be known for bringing faith, hope and love to those in need."

Later on, live and in person, he asked the crowd, "Does your life actually show a sense of urgency in what you believe? Or do you hope to just kind of get by?"

Say what you want of his wearing his Christianity on his sleeve, or attempting to hang on too long to an athletic career that clearly reached its zenith in college, but there has never seemed anything fake or insincere or just trying to get by about Tim Tebow.

He is what he is and anyone who's ever been fortunate enough to listen to him preach or deliver a speech is probably thankful for his faith and devotion to a higher power.

And I extend that thought not only because of these words from Tebow last November: "Salvation is going from having no hope to having a home in heaven. Always remember that the importance of people lasts forever."

That's all people, by the way. Black, white, red, yellow, brown, rich, poor, straight, gay and everything in between.

Yet it's never been only Tebow's words that have made him special. Anyone who's ever attended one of his "Night to Shine" dances for those with disabilities knows tissues are a requirement rather than an option.

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Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Tim Tebow makes a reception during a drill at NFL football practice, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Merely soak in the words of Mary Crews, one of the "queens and kings" of a 2019 Night to Shine that had 99 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student-athletes volunteering to dance with them at the John A. Patten Recreation Center in Lookout Valley.

Said Crews: "I've waited more than two years for this. I've been doing the sprinkler and the South Carolina shag. I've never had more fun."

That fun wouldn't have happened the past seven years at literally thousands of sites around the globe for Crews and hundreds of thousands of other special needs young people without Tebow's compassion and vision. And that's only the most public example of those he's helped through his missionary work, camps and foundation.

Beyond that, and it's always dangerous to write the following words, I've never once heard anyone describe Tebow as a phony, someone portraying himself to be one thing when in fact he's something else. Not that any of us has ever known a politician, entertainer or athlete who's been viewed in that unflattering light.

No, love him or loathe him, Tebow is what he is — an unapologetic Christian, a true Believer.

And if his professional athletic career may finally be at an end in both football and baseball — where his career stats for four seasons of minor league ball, including time in Triple-A for the New York Mets, concluded with a .222 average, 18 home runs and 109 RBIs in 306 games — he deserves some credit for pursuing those sports as long and as diligently as he did while often being humbled in those pursuits.

So now Tebow will likely return to the SEC Network as a football analyst, as well as continuing his public speaking and charity work. As he said in that video at the Redemption to the Nations Church last November, he'll keep "Bringing faith, hope and love to those in need."

There are surely a lot of us, if not all of us, in need of that at the moment.

But let's leave the bigger work, dare I say the far more important work, out of this. Let us merely focus on Tebow attempting to make an NFL roster in his hometown by playing a position he'd never played before at the age of 34.

In a social media post after the Jags cut him, Tebow wrote: "Thankful for the highs and even the lows, the opportunities, and the setbacks. I've never wanted to make decisions out of fear of failure and I'm grateful for the chance to have pursued a dream. God works all things together for good. Romans 8:28."

Now more than ever, we should all be grateful for that.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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