University of Florida quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and Ponte Vedra native Tim Tebow; Bolles school baseball player and Atlanta Braves superstar Chipper Jones; and Florida State and NFL running back Warrick Dunn headlined a star-studded class that was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame Nov. 8 at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach. The group also included former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and LGPA star Colleen Walker.
The Florida Sports Hall of Fame honors sports figures and events from Florida while also promoting fitness awareness and other causes among the state's youth and adult population. Prior to the induction event, Tebow and Jones took photos with guests, and Finchem spoke to the media at a VIP event.
The event then began with the voice of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Frank Frangie, who served as emcee and welcomed the audience to the enshrinement ceremony. Frangie introduced the class of 2017 inductees throughout the evening. Dunn took the stage after the posthumous induction of Walker. He thanked family, friends and coaches for the honor and talked about his initiative to help single parents own homes.
"I'm thankful for this award; I love the fact that I'm in a position to help people," Dunn said. "I want to thank a lot of the people, the coaches, that helped me get to where I'm at, the people who have supported me over the years, the board members here today. Most importantly, I want to thank all the families that I’ve been able to be a part of their lives.”
After a short acceptance speech from Finchem, Jones delivered a speech in which he told stories about his parents, his upbringing and the coaches that helped shape his character. On a somber note, Jones spoke about former Toronto Blue Jays star pitcher Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico the day before the ceremony.
"I have a heavy heart standing here tonight," Jones said with tears in his eyes. "Because an adversary that I respected very much, a guy that I got to play with for the first time this summer at a charity tournament in Wichita, passed away yesterday in a plane crash. I was sitting there thinking about it ... I did not want my wife to fly with me."
Jones said the Florida Sports Hall of Fame highlights athletes who aren't just good at sports, but also use their platform for philanthropy. He asserted that the “common denominator” between the inductees is they use their platform to help people less fortunate than themselves.
Tebow was the final enshrinee to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"First of all, I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ," he said. "Tonight is a special night. There are so many people that I'd like to thank. The board of directors, the volunteers, everybody that made this possible.”
Tebow then complimented his fellow inductees before lauding the career statistics of Jones, calling his batting average “freaking unbelievable.”
“The first time I got a chance to meet Chipper, he came to our celebrity gala and golf tournament,” Tebow said. “And one thing he kept asking is ‘What can I do to help?’ And it was amazing to see his heart. He cares about people in need.”
Tebow said he tries to represent his family in an honorable way, and he wants to represent Jacksonville, the University of Florida and the entire state as more than just a football player or pro athlete.
“I’m proud that I get to stand up here and represent so many coaches and teammates at the University of Florida,” he said. “Because it wasn’t just about winning football games, it was about developing young men. Ultimately, I believe this award isn’t for championships, it’s not for trophies … It’s about more than that.”
Tebow said he invests his time in philanthropy because changing lives is more important than sports, and he wants to be remembered as someone who made a positive impact on his sphere of influence.
For more information on the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, visit www.flasportshof.org.