By Chad Bonham
BCS National Championship Game: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14 (January 8, 2009)
For college football fans, the 2009 BCS National Championship Game was loaded with intrigue and fascinating matchups. There was the clash of two powerhouse programs–Florida and Oklahoma–and a faceoff between two of the sport’s most accomplished coaches–Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops.
On the field, it was the battle between quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford that had captured the national spotlight. Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, was noted for his unique ability to run and pass the ball effectively while Bradford, the newly crowned 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, preferred a more traditional passing style.
The game was expected to be a high scoring affair, especially considering that the Sooners had already set an NCAA record for most points scored in a season. But sloppy play and defensive grit saw both teams struggle for consistency. Ultimately, Tebow and running back Percy Harvin gave the Gators just enough of an advantage to claim the 24-14 victory and the coveted BCS title.
Ironically, football wasn’t the only thing that captured the 26.8 million viewers’ attention. Many fans took notice of the eye blacks that Tebow donned during the game. Under his right eye was the word “John.” Under his left eye was the number “3:16.” Curiosity then fueled an incredible phenomenon that resulted in 94 million Internet searches.
What the mass inquisition revealed is arguably the most iconic Bible verse known to mankind:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The following July at the Southeastern Conference media day, Tebow was asked about the buzz he had created.
“That just kind of showed me, wow, the impact,” he responded to reporters. “I could wear something under my eyes and millions of people were going to Google it. I really had a platform. I wanted to take advantage of that for one more year, be a good role model for the kids that look up to me.”
Since then, Tebow has remained one of the most popular sports figures in the United States. Although his NFL career was short-lived, he has continued to embrace his influential role as a speaker, author, broadcaster, and, most recently, as an aspiring professional baseball player.
“It all starts with you—working hard,” he once told Sharing the Victory Magazine, “And if everybody sees that—that you are the hardest working person out there—then they are going to respect you and what you say and you are going to have a lot more opportunity to influence them.”
A year following Florida’s championship victory, the NCAA banned messages on eye blacks. The new statute, which quickly became known as “the Tim Tebow rule,” may have put an end to biblical references on the field of play, but not before the iconic athlete was able to make an enormous impact on popular culture.
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: Joel McClendon; Craig O’Neal)