Chase Heavener spent four months chronicling quarterback's NFL dreams
Heavener was friends with Tim Tebow, who gave him unfettered access to his training
Documentary follows Tebow from last game in college to night he gets drafted
Heavener says Tebow is the real deal, what you see is how he really is
Tim Tebow wants to be an inspiration.
As the Denver Broncos quarterback approaches the second round of the NFL playoffs, a documentary offers a detailed look at his quest to convince the teams that he could bring his college success to the pro level. With typical humility, he says he just hopes the film inspires young people.
“I hope it’s a positive message for kids who (are) trying to accomplish their dreams,” he told ESPN’s Bill Williamson. “I want to show them that there are adversity and obstacles for everyone, but you can make it. I am honestly living my dream, but I had adversity and obstacles. I want kids to get hope from this.”
Yeah, some of you are rolling your eyes.
But Tebow genuinely believes that. And that’s one of the messages of the film, says Chase Heavener, who directed “Tim Tebow: Everything in Between.”
Tim Tebow is exactly what he appears to be: a hard-working, squeaky-clean, all-American guy.
“It’s really cool to see that it’s true. He is who he says he is,” Heavener said.
Heavener is something of an expert on this subject. He’s not just a filmmaker who followed the man who is now arguably the most famous quarterback in America. He’s also a friend.
Heavener’s dad and Tebow’s dad were college roommates and have stayed buddies. That friendship uniquely positioned the younger Heavener to ask the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion to be filmed constantly through winter 2010.
Heavener and his team at Fiction, a video production company, ended up with more than 1,000 hours of film, which were edited to 50 minutes when ESPN picked up the television rights to the project. It was shot in the months between Tebow’s last collegiate game and the night he was drafted by the Broncos.
The film debuted in January 2011 with “very impressive” ratings, ESPN publicist Jennifer Cingari said, and “it has done well in re-airs, too.”
The documentary will get three more airings before Saturday night’s Divisional Round game pitting the Broncos at the heavily favored New England Patriots.
The cameras follow Tebow and his supporters through the process of preparing for the NFL draft. He hires an agent; plays in an all-star game for NFL prospects; moves to Nashville, Tennessee, to train; and eventually waits in his parents’ home to see which team will choose him.
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More air time is spent on football than personal life, but Heavener says viewers see what makes Tebow a special person and athlete. People who start out ambivalent about the quarterback or even in the anti-Tebow camp tell him that, by the end, they’re cheering when the Broncos call on him.
“You get to see that none of things he’s gotten in his life are handed to him; they’re all a byproduct of how hard he works for it,” Heavener said. “I’ve never seen someone who is so driven and so focused.”
In 2010, Tebow prepared for the draft as experts debated endlessly where he should go. The difference in contract for a top pick and a mid-round pick is millions of dollars. But it also sends a statement to the rest of the players about where the team is going.
In one scene, as Tebow autographs merchandise with a television within earshot, ESPN analyst Todd McShay tells the TV audience that he thinks Tebow has third-round talent.
Tebow doesn’t say a word, doesn’t even lift his head to acknowledge the comment, while others in the room make sympathetic don’t-listen-to-that-guy remarks.
“It makes him work harder,” Heavener said. “Instead of taking it in a negative way, he makes it into something positive.”
The filmmaker says that’s something he’s seen from Tebow his whole life, even in high school.
Tebow’s much-publicized religion is a subtle part of the film. He visits a young gunshot victim in the hospital and leads a prayer with the family. He speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. He and his mother make a commercial for the conservative religious group, Focus on the Family.
“I approached this as a documentary, so however Tim chose to present his faith that is how we presented it in the piece,” Heavener said. What you see is “how Tim lives his life.”
The recently released DVD has some important extra material, Heavener says. He feels that the TV version of the documentary really doesn’t leave anything out, but he added some draft night material after getting feedback from fans.
The TV version goes to black just as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is about to announce Tebow’s name at the draft. Heavener said he was intrigued by the fact that it seemed women disliked, even hated, cutting it there, while men were cool with the choice. There are 10 more minutes of the announcement and ensuing celebration on the DVD.
He also put some outtakes in which Tebow’s sense of humor is more visible.
“He likes to rib you a little bit,” he says.
He even uses humor during the most tense moment of the film, when Tebow’s anxiously deciding with his agent whether to take the risk of going to the NFL’s draft festivities (where he’d be embarrassed if he goes undrafted on the first night).
“You have to have a little fun in life,” Tebow tells him, an easy smile stretching across his face. He ended up as the 25th overall pick.
Since the draft, the focus on Tebow has become steadily more intense. Heavener, now just a friend instead of a documentarian, says he has gone to almost every Denver Broncos game this year. And Tebow remains the same, he says, thanks in part to the people he surrounds himself with. They help bring perspective.
One of the things Tebow does to stay grounded is to host a child from the Make-a-Wish foundation every week. He meets with his guest before each game and take him or her on the field. After the contest – win or lose – they hang out, talk and cut up.
You know, to give the kid some hope.