Tebow, Burkhead, and Osborne

In a day when ship captains push aside women to leap into lifeboats, and when leaders of universities sit on their hands when they hear about the sexual abuse of children, and when no one in Washington will take responsibility for the death of four Americans in Benghazi…it’s refreshing to find an exemplar. Or, better yet, three:

While much of the nation is taking pot shots at Tim Tebow for praying in public and keeping his pants on, the QB continues to help others when he’s not taking snaps. Shortly before the captain didn’t go down with the ship, sportswriter Rick Reilly wrote an op-ed about Tebow. Reilly described how, for every game—home or away—Tebow picks a person who is “suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured,” and he flies that person to a Broncos game. Tebow takes care of everything—the car rental, hotel room, 30-yard-line tickets, and all the meals. Then, after the game, while the rest of his team showers, he hangs out with the guest of honor. And get this: when Tebow heard about how one terminally ill young woman called her Tebow-day the best day of her life, he was flabbergasted. Reilly quoted him as saying, “Why me? Why should I inspire her? I just don’t feel, I don’t know, adequate.”

Who talks like that today?

Let me give you another name: Rex Burkhead. On April 22, 2011 Jack Hoffman, a little bike-riding, fish-catching, Husker-football-watching boy from Atkinson, Nebraska was life-flighted to Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. He was having life-threatening seizures. Doctors found a tumor on Jack’s left temporal lobe. Before this second surgery took place, Jack got to meet one of his greatest heroes – Nebraska’s star running back, Rex Burkhead. From that moment on, Rex has spent countless hours with Jack and his family. The Burkheads and Hoffmans have become close friends, and Rex continually checks in on Jack, often taking teammates with him. Rex won the Uplifting Athletes award for his commitment to Jack and pediatric brain cancer; but that isn’t why #22 is doing it. Rex genuinely cares about this little Husker fan from up north, and he’s inspired by him. “It helps me go the extra mile,” Burkhead says. “When I get tired, I think of Jack and work harder.”

Who does things like that?

Well, let me give you one more name: Tom Osborne. Osborne served as Nebraska’s head coach for 25 years, never finishing a season with fewer than 9 wins, and winning 3 National Championships. He’s just recently resigned as UNL’s Athletic Director after helping to restore the heart and ethos of Husker athletics. I think I speak for the entire state when I say that few people have done more to inspire a sense of pride and general good will in Nebraska than T. O. And yet, when complimented, he seems uncomfortable. He’d much rather have the attention placed on other people’s contributions, or on the work of TeamMates, or on the support he’s received from his family, friends, and Husker nation.

I’m not one of those guys who can tell you who played strong lineman for the Dallas Broncos when they won the Rider Cup in 2002. (I did that on purpose.) But I DO love athletics for giving good people the chance to do some good things.

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