Sports

It’s About So Much More than Football

“What’s Urban Meyer really like?”a friend asked me last night.

As I tried to come up with an answer that adequately describes the Ohio State coach, a barrage of adjectives flooded my mind: Kind. Compassionate. Caring. The list goes on and on.

My perspective on Coach Meyer is unique, because I’ve had the blessing of meeting him and his wife. People ask me all the time how I root for Ohio State, and the answer is simple: Because Coach and Ms. Shelley are amazing.

I first met Coach Meyer two and a half years ago, at the Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. I’d gone as a surprise birthday present, and that day is one I’ll never forget. Over the course of six hours, I met so many people that I’d either listened to on the radio or watched on TV for years. They were all so nice, and being able to hug Timmy and tell him how much he inspires me meant more to me than I could ever explain.

Coach Meyer is someone else who gives me inspiration and encouragement. He was the first coach I ever watched lead the Florida Gators, and I can’t count how many times my father would remind me of the way he pushes his team as I went through physical therapy and the other obstacles cerebral palsy brings. “He pushes them to the max,” Dad would tell me. “That’s why he’s successful. You have to push yourself that way, too.” I’d always had a feeling that he was a great man in addition to being a great coach, and I found out at the golf tournament that day that I’d been right.

He was the last golfer to come to our hole, and I remember nervous adrenaline pumping through my veins as he made his way toward me. Before I could figure out what to say, Coach Meyer told me, “I’m going to give you a huge hug” and then did exactly that. The kind way he spoke to me made my nerves disappear. I noticed right away that more than anything else, he’s a father. He made me feel comfortable and he made me feel normal at a time when I often felt like my disability defined me.

A year later, six months after Timmy and his foundation granted my W15H, I gave a speech at their Celebrity Gala. My dad stepped out of the room for a moment not long after I spoke, and when he came back, he was wearing a bright smile.

“What?” I asked.

“I just talked to Urban Meyer,” Dad answered. “He said he remembers you and he’s going to come talk to you.” I couldn’t believe he remembered me in the first place.

Sure enough, I looked up not long after that to see Coach Meyer and Ms. Shelley making their way towards me. They both wrapped me in huge hugs before pulling up chairs and talking with us for at least fifteen minutes-if not longer. Ms. Shelley talked to me with the same warmth and kindness that her husband did, and I was floored when she said that my speech had made her cry. They made my night, and since then I’ve cheered for the Buckeyes the same way I cheer for Florida.

Me the night of the 2016 Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Gala

The answer to the above question applies to not only Coach Meyer, but to Ms. Shelley as well. They’re both amazing, incredibly kind, wonderful people, and I’m so grateful to have been able to meet them both. That night is something I think about whenever I need encouragement, and Coach Meyer is so much more than just a football coach. He always brightens my day, and I’m so blessed to be one of the thousands of lives he and Ms. Shelley have touched.

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Sports

Here’s Why I Think Tim Tebow Will Make It in the Majors

Yesterday, ESPN posted this fantastic article about MLB players who are rooting for Tim Tebow as he continues his journey to Citi Field. I loved seeing so much support from the league’s All-Stars, especially after hearing so many say they don’t think he’ll be able to make it. I think he’ll make it, and here’s why.

He has raw power behind the plate, for one thing. It seems like every week you see another video of him hitting a home run, and I think part of that comes from his strength. No, he’s not built like a baseball player, but it’s paying off.

And while we’re talking about batting, let’s mention the fact that he’s also becoming more consistent behind the plate. Since being promoted to Port Saint Lucie, his batting average has improved to .318 and he currently has a .972 on base percentage. He’s on a nine game hitting streak, and he’s moved from seventh in the batting line-up to sixth.

He’s also made great a few plays in the field since moving to PSL. I think everyone saw the video of him robbing Fort Meyers first baseman Zandal Weil of a home run. He’s improving all-around, which could lead to another promotion sooner than we think.

He’s also making a difference off the field. He’s a leader in the clubhouse, but more than that, he impacts the community he’s in. Last summer, he stopped and prayed with a man having a heart attack, and this summer, he’s spent time with numerous kids from his foundation who have come to his games. Tim Tebow impacts and inspires others wherever he is, and I think that’s a trait of success as well.

Of course he has to room to improve in certain areas. Don’t we all? But if there’s one thing I know about Tim Tebow, it’s that he will put in the work and the time to get better and make his dream of being a major league player a reality. I won’t be surprised to see him playing at Citi Field, and I’m behind him all the way.

Sports

Team USA Fights in Loss to Japan

After a stellar 7-0 start in the World Cup of Softball, Team USA fell to the defending World Cup champions, losing the game 2-1. But I think that when softball fans look back on this game and this tournament, I think what will be remembered is the spirit and heart the team showed throughout the game.
Even after Japan scored their first run, the ladies were resilient, continuing to give their all and play to the best of their ability. And when Aubree Munro hit an RBI single, they played with even more fire, something that was evidenced by Kelsey Stuart’s incredible double play.

It reminded me of why I love the game of softball. Softball is so much more than runs scored or outs recorded; it’s about battling through adversity and never giving up, no matter what’s going on. Watching the way those women played and fought today inspired and encouraged me to keep stretching, keep going to physical therapy, and keep fighting to overcome my cerebral palsy and become independent. Because as Team USA showed today, if you work hard and put your heart into what you do, you’re a winner no matter what.

Also, how awesome was it to see five Gators on the field today? It’s always great to be a Florida Gator!

Florida Gators · Sports

The Year in Florida Sports (So Far)

Moments ago, Florida’s baseball team advanced to the championship series of the College World Series with a win over TCU. I thought I’d take the moment to not only highlight the boys’ accomplishment, but the accomplishments of Florida sports so far this year. So far in 2017, Florida has:

  • Defeated Iowa in the Outback Bowl 30-3
  • Advanced to the Elite Eight in basketball
  • Captured our third straight regular season SEC title in softball
  • Been crowned SEC Champs in baseball
  • Won the national title in women’s tennis
  • Won the national championship in men’s track and field
  • Advanced to the championship series in the Women’s College World Series
  • Advanced to the championship series in the College World Series

In addition, here are a few staggering statistics, via Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin:

  • UF has won 38 national championships
  • We have won a national championship in each of the previous nine academic years
  • This year, 13 Gator sports teams finished ranked in the top ten in the country, with ten teams finishing ranked in the top five

As the saying goes, it’s always great to be a Florida Gator.

What has been your favorite moment in sports so far this year? No, it doesn’t have to be Florida related. 🙂

Sports

Will Grier

Earlier in the week, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen announced that starting quarterback Will Grier will be eligible to play after serving an NCAA suspension for violating their PED policy.

In 2015, Grier was suspended for after leading the Gators to a 6-0 start. He had violated the NCAA’s PED policy, and as a result, he was suspended for not only the rest of the 2015 season, but for all of the 2016 season as well. Not surprising many, at the end of the season, Grier announced he would transfer from UF.

He landed in the PAC-12 and is now a West Virginia Mountaineer.  In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Grier said he felt an almost immediate connection with Holgerson, and committed to West Virginia after Holgerson told him, “Don’t worry about anything. We’re going to stick with you no matter what, even if you can’t play the first six games of 2017. We want you.” Now, it’s known that Grier will get to play at the beginning of this season, and ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt is convinced he will win the Heisman.

My Thoughts on Grier

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know I’m a die-hard Gator fan. And, like the rest of Gator Nation, I was shocked to learn of Grier’s suspension. However, unlike many Florida fans I know, I view the incident as a mistake made by a twenty-year old kid. Should he have checked with the trainer before he took the drug? Absolutely. But here’s the thing: He’s still growing up. He’s still learning. I believe the PED situation was something he learned from, and I think he’s going to take the college football world by storm at the beginning of the season, much like he did at UF. I’m excited to see what he’ll do, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott Van Pelt’s prediction ends up being right.

What are your thoughts on Will Grier?

Sports

This is What Sports Are All About

I was surfing the Internet and came across this story on ESPN about a young boy fighting cancer who had the opportunity to lead Kentucky’s football team out of the tunnel before their spring game, and it made me think: this is why sports are so important. It’s not about the wins or the losses; it’s not about the championships or defeats. It’s about the lives that are impacted and the people that are inspired because of them.

Sports have had a huge impact on my life. Even though I’ve never been able to play, I’ve grown up watching football, basketball, and everything in between with my family. I love them. I was- and still am- so inspired by former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. I love how strong in his faith he is, I love how he never gives up, and I love how he goes out of his way to brighten someone else’s day. I’ve had the blessing of meeting him and getting to know him, and every time I see him, I’m blown away by how kind and compassionate he is. He’s everything you see on TV and more, and I’m not sure he knows just how much he’s impacted my life.

That’s one of the reasons I loved this article about what the Kentucky football team is doing for Ryan and his family. This is something he’ll remember for the rest of his life; it’s something he’ll lean into and think about when he has a rough day. By visiting him and showing him so much kindness, they’re giving him memories he’ll never forget, and they’re impacting his life in profound ways. They’re using their platform as football players to make a difference, and that is what sports is truly about. Not wins, not losses, not games, not practices, but impacting and inspiring others.

Sports

Tim Tebow Smashes Another Home Run

He did it in his first Grapefruit League game.

And then he did it in his minor league debut, sending the ball flying over the fence and putting two more runs on the board for the Columbia Fireflies.

And last night, he did it yet again; this time it was a three run home run. He rounded the bases, and then began celebrating with his teammates as the crowd went crazy. It’s Tebow Time in Columbia.

After he had a .148 spring practice average, many doubted he would be successful in baseball. Some thought his tenure with the Mets had ended. But instead, he was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies, the Mets Class A affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina, where he is again making news headlines and surprising baseball fans around the country. Suddenly, it seems as if his baseball dream isn’t so far-fetched after all.

Baseball, he said in a recent interview, was his first love, and the decision to pursue football instead was one of the hardest he’s made in his life. He said that even as he chased his football dreams, he never stopped watching baseball; in fact, he was in a batting cage when Chip Kelly called to offer him a tryout with the Eagles. Now, he has the opportunity to play the sport he loves, and chase another dream. He’s going to take it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Tim Tebow, it’s that you should never count him out. He’s a hard-working, extremely dedicated athlete who will put in the hours and do the work he needs to do to get where he wants to be. He pours passion into everything he does- I’ve heard him speak, and even when he’s giving speeches you can hear how much he believes in what he’s saying. Now, that passion is showing up on the baseball field, and he’s showing the world that he’s still the incredible athlete newspapers wrote about ten years ago. He’s still built like a football player, and I believe that strength has something to do with the home runs he keeps hitting.

Yes, this dream may be a big one. No, it’s not likely he’ll make it into the majors. But Tim Tebow has shown again and again that he’s capable of doing the incapable, and if anyone can achieve this feat, it’s Tim. Don’t count him out, and don’t be surprised if you see him in Citi Park, wearing orange and blue again and living out his dream of being a pro baseball player.