“I want to make a difference with my platform,” says NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. What does Tim Tebow have to do with this sculpture of Jack Trice? Aside from the fact that they both currently have a “platform” to stand on (one metaphorically and the other literally), they probably have more in common than you think.
While perusing the thousands of images of Iowa State’s collection of Art on Campus (who wants to peruse in tundra-like weather?), I was struck by this particular sculpture. The general angle the picture was taken, was head on—I saw a man with his elbow resting on a knee and his head bowed. What immediately came to mind was Tim Tebow kneeling in prayer on the football field. The act of this athlete kneeling has grown so much in popularity, it has become its own verb, “Tebowing.”
I continued to observe the sculpture from every angle. I first observed that this man is a typical college student, smiling while reading, and dressed in a casual sweater. To his side a pair of shoes and two books—one titled “Animal Husbandry.” The arm not propped on his knee and holding the reading material, is on his hip. His body language tells me a lot about this man, but I especially understand that whoever this was, was confident and happy.
As captivated as I was with this sculpture, I immediately began to ask questions and do a little research. Who is this man? I was floored to learn that this was a football player, and even more surprised to discover that this was Jack Trice. I have been driving past that Jack Trice Stadium practically five days a week, since my first day on campus last fall. I had always assumed that Jack Trice was a famous coach or a faithful patron. How exciting to know that I now had an explanation and a face for the name! An African American ISU football player who played in the 1920s, named Jack Trice.
Now recently, there has been a huge amount of attention given to quarterback Tim Tebow in the media. He is now the most popular athlete in the nation. I don’t believe it is because of how he plays football. Part of the reason Tebow is such a popular topic to talk about is because statistically, he certainly wasn’t the best this season. But he was still winning games, winning eight in a row taking his team to the playoffs. People just couldn’t figure it out. I believe he is so popular because of his character and his Christian faith. Tebow has proven to be committed, hard working, poised and genuinely humble (not something very popular among today’s athletes). I believe he receives a lot of animosity for being a Christian and acting like one. People expect more out of him because he is a Christian, or possibly dislike him for that reason. The media came down very hard on Tim Tebow and often had more negative comments and reactions towards him than positive. He came up against a great deal of hostility towards him, unlike any other athlete this season. I’m not sure the same would have been true if he weren’t open about his faith. He cares more about glorifying God than promoting his own ego.
Jack Trice, also a football player, without a doubt came up against a great deal of animosity as well during his short career. When Jack arrived to Iowa State in 1922, football could still be especially dangerous for African Americans. Opponents often targeted African American players with vicious hits. Even teammates would time and time again not make sufficient blocks, resulting in them getting hurt. Regardless, Trice remained a person of great character. Those who knew him remember him as being courteous, an “outstanding gentleman”, humble, and a “wonderful person”. These traits were evident to everyone clear up to his very last game. That day came in October, 1923 against Minnesota. He would be the only black player on the field. The night before, Jack wrote:
“To whom it may concern: My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life. The honor of my race, family, & self are at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will! …Be on your toes every minute if you expect to make good.”
Both of these men will be remembered for their integrity, rather than merely how they performed as a football player. They were/are both given a platform, and people were/are watching closely what they did/do (especially children). There is a lot of responsibility that comes with that spotlight, and both Tebow and Trice seem to understand that. They are men of great character, and to remembered or known for those traits is far greater than being known by your statistics and a prideful attitude. What are you doing with your platform? What kind of example are you being for others?So seeing this sculpture was not only a great reminder of the excitement of football and that the Superbowl is drawing near, but that how we act is so important. It reminds me to not be afraid of the world’s perspective of who I am and what I’m doing for Christ. How can I use my God-given talents and abilities to glorify God and be a good example for others?