Peter Tebow Helps Leads the Charge on Campus

How a Cru staff intern exercises his faith and passion

  • by Rich Atkinson

The young Mr. Tebow delivers passion and intensity to everything he does on the University of Florida campus.

“He is charismatic, powerful and passionate,” says team member Allen Williams.

During a game a few years ago in Gainesville, the team was driving down the field and time was running out. The quarterback delivered the ball 50 yards downfield, but it glanced off the receiver’s fingertips as he went all-out trying to make the catch. They lost the game.

“He didn’t want to talk about that game for weeks,” says senior Brett Williams.

He Is the Big Brother on Campus

Replays didn’t air over and over on ESPN because the football player was Peter Tebow, big brother to the man he calls Timmy, the famous Heisman-winning quarterback on campus.

The Other Mr. Tebow

Whether he is playing a receiver in a flag football game, a guard in a pick-up basketball game or meeting students on campus to talk about Jesus, Peter displays passion and intensity. Because he is a full-time intern with Cru, Peter is like a big brother to many, not just Tim.

After graduating from UF in 2008 with a major in computer science engineering and a minor in business administration, he started his internship there with Cru.

Although Peter didn’t want to talk about that flag football game, he enjoys talking with people.

“I literally met Peter the first day of school,” says Brett, “If I hadn’t met him—if God didn’t put him into my life that first day of school, I don’t know where I would be at.”

“Investing in people and being a part of life change is not only satisfying short term, but is eternally rewarding,” Peter says.

“Most importantly, what I have learned from him is living life and being friends. He has been like a big brother to me,” says Brett.

Peter is a big brother with big faith. Take, for example, the goals expressed in the opening staff team huddle.

Peter’s Faith in Action

Team leader Jimmy Trent spoke up, “What do we want to trust the Lord for this year?”

Jimmy went around the room asking each person. When they discussed how many people they were trusting God for to come to Christ, they had different ideas. One person mentioned 125. Another person said they were trusting the Lord for 250 students to place their faith in Christ during the year.

“Well, what did you put down Peter?” Jimmy asked.

“I want to see 500,” he said.

“What? Now, wait,” Jimmy said.

Faith Formed His Family’s Foundation

Peter grew up in a Christian home. His dad, Bob, helped start the campus ministry at the University of Florida in 1966. He later started the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association. Peter’s mom, Pam, homeschooled him along with his four siblings.

“Faith was a very common thing that I saw in my parents, and so I think it was easier for me to trust God for big things because I have seen Him work my entire life,” Peter says.

Peter Sets the Pace

“He sets the pace for us at times, like in our faith goals, because he doesn’t limit God and he dreams big,” says Jimmy.

At the first Thursday night Cru meeting of the semester, 1,100 students came and 70 students indicated they had placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

When the eleven member staff team met again, Jimmy said he heard Peter say, “Maybe I need to go back and up my number?” 

But with Peter it is not all about numbers. He cares about people. Brett describes their first meeting. Peter greeted him with a high-five and a hug and with the words: “Hi, welcome to Florida. My name is Peter.”

“Peter might be the more famous Tebow on campus," says Brett, “I know it is hard to imagine, but he is so outgoing and wildly popular because of how he makes you feel.”

Phil Madrid recalls what he learned from Peter during a time they went out on campus to talk to others about their faith. He was disappointed they only had the opportunity to talk with one person during that brief time.

“We went out at a bad time on campus when most people were in class or on their way to class,” says Phil, “People didn’t really want to talk with us.”

“It was not about results, but God wanting to use us and to continue to teach us,” says Phil.

But according to Jimmy, Peter’s faith, passion and zeal didn’t look this way when Jimmy first met him when Peter was a student about three or four years ago.

“He was at a fork in the road and he could have gone either way,” says Jimmy, “Whether he was really going to get going with it, with the Lord, or just be mediocre. He made a really awesome decision to go hard after the Lord.”

Peter’s Growth and Future Dreams

As his mentor and co-laborer, Jimmy has been investing in Peter’s life and challenging him to grow. When Peter became an intern last year, Jimmy assigned Peter to oversee the Cru retreat for the UF students.

“I think the Lord is going to call him to some big things,” says Jimmy, “But in order to do that effectively, he needs to have more than just passion and zeal. He needs to create steps and strategy, and execute on those things to see the vision come to pass.”

With 250 people attending the retreat last year, it was the biggest one they ever had. This fall, they hope even more people will come.

“It is fun to tell people about my dad’s legacy here,” says Peter. “It is the same with Timmy. He has a huge influence on the campus, so our circles overlap a little bit.”

“But God has put me in a place that has freed me up to do ministry,” says Peter, “and I have a great time doing it.”