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Education Reporter

Former Homeschooled Student Wins Heisman Trophy
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Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow won this year's Heisman Trophy, college football's most prestigious award. Tebow is not only the first player ever to win the Heisman as a sophomore, but also the first formerly homeschooled player to win the honor.

Because Florida law allows homeschooled students to join public school sports teams, Tebow was able to play football on a local team while still receiving academic instruction from his parents at home. 19 other states also allow homeschoolers to play public school sports, although the National Education Association teachers union disapproves the practice.

Tebow was born in the Philippines, where his missionary parents ran an orphanage. He has returned to the Philippines each summer since he was 15 to work and preach at the same orphanage. He also speaks frequently in schools, and shared his testimony as a Christian in a Florida prison earlier this year. This unusual background has only added to his superstar status with Gators fans, who celebrate his football skills with slogans such as "If you can see Tim Tebow, he can see you. If you can't see Tim Tebow, he just scored another touchdown." Fans are elated that the quarterback plans to finish college as a Gator, rather than leaving for the NFL after his junior year as many gifted college players do if they have the choice.

Homeschooling advocates recognize Tebow as a great spokesman for alternative schooling. "My parents were tremendous role models throughout [my education], and there were never discipline issues for us," says Tebow. "By the time I came to the University of Florida, I felt I had great study habits and felt comfortable making the transition to classes. I think that being homeschooled offered me an opportunity to also learn some life lessons, and those experiences help me while I'm on the field."

When asked how he felt about being the first homeschooler to win such a major athletic award, Tebow joked, "A lot of times people have this stereotype of homeschoolers as not very athletic - it's like, go win a spelling bee or something like that. It's an honor for me to be the first one to do that."

The Alabama legislature has already introduced a "Tim Tebow bill," which would lift Alabama's restrictions against homeschoolers participating in public school sports and other extracurricular activities. This high-profile award to a homeschooled student may encourage other states to follow suit.

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