Heisman provides Tebow broader audience for message of faith
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida quarterback Tim Tebow took the microphone, scanned the 14 rows of grim-faced men sitting in folding metal chairs and recognized the familiar hue of blue.
“How many Gator fans do we have in the house today?” Tebow asked.
After more than half the men raised their hands, Tebow added, “All right, those who didn’t raise their hands, that’s who I’m preaching to today.”
On a balmy Saturday morning in mid-April — the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback’s first weekend away from the bright spotlight of Florida football — Tebow had never seemed more comfortable.
His playing field was a concrete basketball court in the middle of Gainesville Correctional Institute, a minimum-medium security state prison where banished major league baseball stars Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry once served hard time. His sideline was a 15-foot metal fence topped by razor wire and guarded by a correctional officer carrying a shotgun and driving a small pickup truck. His audience no longer was tens of thousands of Gator fans cheering his every move, but rather more than 150 inmates, many of whom are serving at least three-year prison sentences for drug-related offenses and still trying to kick the habit that put them in there.