Q&A: Tim Tebow’s latest commitment to helping others, the state of the SEC, and his future

Tim Tebow is a two-time national champion (Florida in 2006 and ’08) quarterback, the winner of the 2007 Heisman Trophy, and played three seasons in the NFL with the Broncos and Jets before trying his hand at baseball in the Mets’ minor-league system.

After his comeback attempt as a tight end with the Jaguars came up short, Tebow is focusing on his TV career as an analyst on the SEC Network, duties with ESPN, and his Tim Tebow Foundation.

Tebow is also a former Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member and currently works with the organization to help select the newest members. On Friday, Allstate announced it is pledging $1 million to honor the 22 college football players who make up the 2021 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. 

The NCAA’s decision to allow players to benefit from NIL has helped Allstate aid in the players’ commitment to community service.

Sports Section sat down with Tebow to discuss his passion for the Good Works Team, helping others, his future on and off the field, and the college football season.

Why are you so passionate about helping with the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team?

It was an honor for me to be part of it a few years ago — hey, it wasn’t too long ago — but with this being the 30th anniversary of the Allstate Good Works team, it’s something that has been very near and dear to my heart for a long time.

This year it’s a little bit more unique because of Allstate’s ability to support these athletes with the opportunity because of the new NIL rules and their pledge of $1 million to these 22 athletes and their charities. I think that is super cool.

I had the opportunity to talk to some of them the last few weeks and share the news and surprise them. I’m like, “Hey guys, what do you want to do with the money?” And almost to a man it was, “I’m going to get another truck to feed the homeless or I’m going to be able to have another camp or we’re going to have another Boys & Girls Club meeting or we’re going to have another Special Olympics event.”

There are so many awards and trophies for what guys do on the field, but this is one of very few for what they do off the field and, in my opinion, it’s more important and it should always be. 

How did the 22 athletes get selected?

They or their SIDs or their schools send in information about everything they’re doing and then there are different interview processes, and I’m on the committee to vote. We read through the list of hundreds of guys  — and there are so many incredible ones and you hate to narrow it down to just 22 — and then we vote on them. 

But it is so hard because what these guys are doing is incredible. Truly, it is a lot of the best of the best. They’ve been empowered to make more of an impact, more of a difference and that’s been really cool.

Why has it been so important for you to give back throughout your life? 

Because it’s probably the most important thing you could ever do in your life. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we think matters so much: Fame and power and trophies and prestige and all of these things. All of those things are fine and good, but when that’s everything, it really is nothing. 

But when you’re able to make someone else’s life better because of what you gave them, because of how you cared, because of the way you love them, because of the effort that you went out of your way to display on their behalf, one, I think it’s fulfilling; two, I think it has a way longer impact; and three, I believe it’s contagious. People want to be a part of it. 

With these guys, when you’re around them, it’s contagious. You want to go do stuff together. You’re like, “Hey, I want to be part of this.” In several of the conversations I had with the guys, they were like, “Hey, when we get to Florida with this, will you show up?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ll show up!” 

It’s just exciting. I believe when people are around passionate people who want to do good, it’s contagious because there’s this feeling of fulfillment that people want.

Where does your desire to help others come from?

A lot of it has to do with my parents and faith. My parents, pretty much their entire adult life, have literally given everything to people that could literally do nothing for themselves in countries all around the world. When you see that over and over again, and you see the impact that it has and the fulfillment in doing it, it’s something that you just can’t beat.

If NIL had been around when you were in college, how would your experience have been different?

Oh, man. I guess the answer is, I don’t know. I think there would have been parts that would have been really awesome and I think there are also parts that would’ve made it very different. 

One of the things that you’ve seen is just how athletes are handling it. Some of it is sharing certain things with your teammates. 

So I think it would be trying to balance all those things and still be able to be one team. I think that’s really important. 

It would have really been interesting, but ultimately I don’t know because I wasn’t in that situation. But I’ve seen some guys handle it really well so far and it’s been really encouraging to see.

What’s next for you? Are you retired from being a pro athlete?

I’m just doing TV now and loving it and working super hard on our foundation, which is in 63 countries around the world.

That’s really where my focus is right now. But who knows what’s next? I kind of try to always keep an open mind and an open heart, and I believe if there’s something I’m passionate about, I like going after those things.

Let’s talk college football. You’re analyzing games for the SEC Network, among other ventures. What are the main storylines for that conference this season?

In the East, Florida and Georgia are the headliners along with an improved Kentucky team.

When you look at Florida, and you watch the game against Alabama, and the Gators were without Anthony Richardson and Ventrell Miller — their backup quarterback, who is a stud, and their middle linebacker — and you’re still within two points and you outplayed them the last three quarters, you have to look and say, “Wow, that’s a very talented team that if it keeps improving could make a run at it.” 

When you look at Georgia, you’ve got one of the top defenses in the country and an offense that has at times shown they can be dangerous, but can they put it all together?

In the West, obviously it’s Alabama. But I think last week Alabama showed that if a couple penalties went a different way or Florida hadn’t missed an extra point and needed to go for two at the end of the game, that game could have gone very differently.

A lot of teams are watching that and saying, “This Alabama team is still probably the best team in the country but if you have the right game plan, someone can play with them.”

And what an amazing story in Arkansas with their turnaround and the culture there. We were there a couple of weeks ago and it’s hard not to fall in love with this team with how hard they play.

Then you have the teams that we have no idea about like LSU and Auburn. Those are question marks so there is a lot to be determined in the SEC.

How about the rest of the country?

It’s who’s going to be able to match the perennial Playoff teams to be able to make a push? Is Oregon going to be able to make a push this year?

The Big Ten is wide open. Is this the year Penn State can make a push after getting two big wins to start the season?

In the ACC with Clemson having a loss, even though it was to Georgia, there’s so many question marks.

There’s always parity in college football, but I think there’s even more this year. The last few years I thought the elites had more of an advantage than that next class of teams. This year, there are a lot of teams that could really make a push for the top four. 

Chris Kuc is a sportswriter who covered a myriad of sports during his career with the Chicago Tribune, The Athletic, and the Chicago Blackhawks before joining Sports Section. You can reach out to Chris at Chris.Kuc@thesportssection.com or on Twitter: @ChrisKuc.