Despite his golden boy image, things haven’t always been perfect for Tim Tebow.
In his new book, Shaken, the former quarterback talks about his the devastation he felt after losing his football career. “People can’t always identify with the highs I’ve experienced,” he tells PEOPLE, “but I think they can identify with the lows. Everyone has low points in their lives—their girlfriend breaks up with them, or they have a health problem, or things don’t go well at work.”
Tebow, 29, faced another low point this past March, when he found out his father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As the athlete processed the heartbreaking news, he threw himself into training for his new baseball career. (Tebow tells PEOPLE that he was already planning to try out for baseball, but his father’s illness gave him even more determination to succeed.)
When Tebow signed with the New York Mets to play in their Fall Instructional League, Bob Tebow, 68, was there to watch his son play. “He loves coming to watch me play ball,” Tim Tebow tells PEOPLE. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about baseball.” Adds Bob Tebow: “I’m proud of all my kids, and I’d be proud of Timmy no matter what.”
For more of our exclusive story on how his father’s Parkinson’s diagnosis has changed Tebow’s life, love and career, pick up the latest copy of PEOPLE, on sale Friday.
Answering the Critics
In the meantime, the response to Tebow’s baseball career has been mixed. While many baseball analysts have praised his determination, some have also been critical of his skills.
For the record, Tebow doesn’t care.
“I don’t have to say anything to the critics,” he tells PEOPLE. “This isn’t a debate; this isn’t a verbal argument. I just have to play baseball and pursue it, and love it, and train—and enjoy the process. Do I want to prove the doubters wrong? Yeah. But more than anything, I want to do what I love and pursue it and enjoy it.”
“I don’t want to live a life that other people want me to live,” he continues. “People are like, ‘This is your box and you need to stay inside of it.’ Why? I don’t have to stay in a box. I get to do what’s in my heart. I get to live my life with abandon. I serve a big God. I get to pursue those things and I don’t have to apologize for that.”
A Larger Platform
Tebow wants to make one thing perfectly clear: baseball wasn’t something he arbitrarily chose to do. “When I was a kid, my parents made us write goals, and every year I had the same goals: to be a quarterback and to be a baseball player. Honestly, most of the time, I thought that baseball was the path that I would take. This is a passion of mine.”
But for Tebow, there’s an ulterior motive in everything that he does. “It doesn’t matter if it’s football or baseball, or SEC Nation or something else,” he says. “My entire purpose is to share faith, hope and love with the world. If baseball helps me to do that, then I’ll do it. It’s all about doing what God wants me to do.”