OKALOOSA ISLAND – When Tim Tebow talks, people listen.
So when memorabilia from the University of Alabama brought in $4,500 Friday night at an auction at the All Sports Association 40th Annual Awards Banquet, Tebow felt compelled to rise from his seat and urge the over 1,400 people in attendance to bid higher once a Florida package was available.
Never mind that the Tide fan with the highest bid was none other than PGA golfer Boo Weekley.
“First of all, we’ve got to get more than ya’ll paid for Alabama,” Tebow said through the microphone.
What Tebow wants, Tebow gets. A bid came in for $5,500. And part of the package the bidder won was what Tebow confidently stated as “four tickets to come watch us beat Georgia again.”
Most attendees at the Emerald Coast Conference Center probably would have settled for four tickets to listen to Tebow speak again. Just ask Weekley.
“Tebow, that was a helluva speech,” Weekley said after listening to Tebow accept the Wuerffel Trophy.
Tebow, Weekley and guest speaker Paul Hornung highlighted a historical evening for the All Sports Association, which celebrated four decades of non-profit service to the community with perhaps the Fort Walton Beach-based group’s most anticipated banquet.
Most importantly, the club gave out another $75,000 total to three local charities. The amount will be spread evenly among the Boys and Girls Clubs of Okaloosa County, YMCA and Special Olympics.
For star power, it couldn’t get much bigger than Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Florida. Tebow, who idolized former Fort Walton Beach and Gators’ star Danny Wuerffel growing up, delivered an inspiring speech centered on always finishing everything you do in life.
He recalled the bear hug coach Urban Meyer gave him as the Gators were securing their second national championship in three years against Oklahoma.
“My ultimate goal is not to get a big hug from coach Meyer after a game, it’s when I stand before Jesus Christ and he has his arms out … and he says, ‘Timmy, you finished,’ ” Tebow said.
While Tebow was the headliner of the banquet, Weekley was the scene-stealer. The former Milton star, who helped lead the USA to victory in the Ryder Cup, had the crowd in stitches. The Professional Award winner admitted that he liked hunting and fishing more than golf and amicably agreed to share a hilarious story where he dropped his car keys in the “pooper” at a golf event.
“If I can get my keys out of there, I can catch a fish anywhere,” Weekley said, before the crowd erupted in laughter and started chanting “Boo.”
A number of local athletes were honored.
Collegiate Award winner Glen Coffee, the former Fort Walton Beach and Alabama star, couldn’t be present because he’s participating at the NFL combine and his brother, South Carolina football signee Matt Coffee, accepted the honor in his absence.
The Scholastic Award winners were Walton’s Betsy Stevenson and Choctawhatchee’s Robby Keefe, while South Walton’s Alexa Guarachi won the Amateur Award and Kathy Wise was honored with the Special Olympian Award. Fort Walton Beach’s Caise Vickery received the inaugural Taylor Haugen Trophy, and Bob Lynn received the Al Byrne Award.
Weekley showed his generosity by auctioning off a golf bag and a round of golf with him. Hornung, a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer, did the same by auctioning off a package of six Green Bay Packers’ tickets and a dinner with him.
The top item auctioned off was two tickets to the Heisman Trophy announcement in December at the Nokia Theater in New York. It brought in $8,500.
Meyer honored Tebow through a video presentation, and then Tebow took the stage.
“After being here for a day and meeting so many people,” Tebow said, “I have to say that in all the other award (ceremonies) I’ve been to, this community by far has been the tightest, been the closest, and meant the most to each other than any community I’ve ever been in.”