Always wanting to be part of something that is encouraging and inspirational, former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow has devoted much of his adult life to helping others. From openly demonstrating his faith on some of the world’s largest athletic stages to spearheading “A Night to Shine”, a program that celebrates people with special needs, Tebow is known far and wide as one of the ‘good guys’. So much so, that is came as a bit of a surprise when he announced recently that he and his brother Robby Tebow would be entering the movie industry as executive producers of the forthcoming film, Run the Race. While filmmaking is not exactly what the Tebows are used to, Tim believes that it is a venture worth pursuing.
“I never had the goal of being in the movie industry,” the former NFL quarterback and current MLB prospect says. “This is storytelling. It is just another avenue to encourage people. It’s not an easy place for a lot of young people and I have a heart for that. To be able to tell a story that is a real story, hopefully young people will be encouraged by it.”
“We decided to get involved with this because it really resonated with us,” echoes Robby. “It was just something that in today’s media, the platform that it has, I think you can reach a lot of people.”
For the Tebows, it was important for them to find a first project that demonstrated many of the faith-based core values in which they strongly believe. Their search led them to Texas-native Jake McEntire, a former seminary student who was working in Hollywood as an actor. The perseverant McEntire, who began writing the script for Run the Race in 2004 as a college student, had been doggedly trying to get the movie made for 12 years before the Tebow brothers came along.
“I just felt like this was a calling that God gave me in my heart to try and to pursue, to tell the story,” McEntire explains. “It literally was a lot of dark nights of the soul praying, “Lord God, do you want me to give up? If you want me to give up, I’ll give up now. I’ll go do something else.’”
But every time McEntire was prepared to shelve the script something would happen … encouragement from a well-known actress, promising phone calls from unlikely sources, and ultimately being introduced to Tim and Robby Tebow.
“Every time I was okay with it being just me and Jesus and nothing else, miracles would start happening,” McEntire shares. “When God pretty much put it in my heart to a level of, “Jake, are you okay if it’s just me and no movie? I know I’ve called you to make the movie, but are you okay with just me and you and no movie because you better be or else everything you wrote in that script isn’t true about me.” And when that would sink in and really just hit me hard, miracles literally would happen the next day.”
One example of miracles happening was the interest of celebrated actors performing in a small, faith-based movie rooted in high school football. In the end, not one, not two, but three Hollywood veterans accepted roles in Run the Race.
“It really had a heart to the story and the characters seemed real,” says Frances Fisher, best known for her role as Ruth Dewitt in 1997 Oscar winner Titanic. “They were all three-dimensional and there were mentors in the film.”
“We are at a place in our culture where we have a lot of stuff to deal with and it’s a little divisive right now,” adds Mario van Peebles, who has appeared in more than 100 movies. “I thought to do this in a film that’s multicultural where you see all walks of life, all that. It’s a good thing. And anything that I can do to perpetuate a culture of kindness at the basis of every good relationship is what I want to do.”
“After I finished Fences I kind of decided that I wanted to take a break from acting,” explains MyKelti Williamson, who portrayed Bubba in the Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump. “But then I saw this little gem, this faith-filled, inspirational film called Run the Race. There wasn’t a lot of money being offered but I felt it was important. It really ministered to me. I just had to say yes.”
The story of Run the Race is based on two teenage brothers who find themselves facing some incredibly difficult life-altering circumstances. David (Evan Hofer) and Zach (Tanner Stine) are desperate for better days to overcome their mother’s death and father’s alcohol-infused abandonment. They plan to do so through football. With a ‘guaranteed’ athletic scholarship beckoning for younger brother Zach, their dream comes to an abrupt halt when he seriously injures his knee.
Facing unbelievable odds, the brothers forge an unbreakable bond despite their circumstances to find a better way, one that ultimately drives them into the arms of God.
Run the Race is not afraid of tackling some very tough faith questions that have beset people for generations.
“There is stuff that happens to you in life that you do not want to happen, but if you can still find joy in God and find peace, then you’ve made it. You’ve run your race,” says McEntire.
Tim Tebow is a prime example of this concept. A highly touted football star coming out of the University of Florida, the two-time college national champion struggled to make an impact in the NFL for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. Out of the league after only three seasons, Tebow is now working his way through the minor leagues in hopes of eventually playing Major League Baseball.
“If you ask me, when I was graduating college, what do you think’s going to happen? I would have said something about winning a couple of Super Bowls by now or something,” Tebow explains. “But it didn’t happen and God had a different plan. Some doors closed and other ones opened. So, it’s all about trusting Him in the midst of all of that.”
While some critics will see Run the Race as just another sports movie it really is much more than that. Demonstrating valuable life lessons as depicted through the lives of two ordinary brothers, the movie shows what is possible if you run toward the love of God rather than away from it.
“There was a reason why I wanted Jesus to be the hero of the story,” McEntire says. “There’s redemption in the movie but I did not want everything going these guys way because that’s not the normal life that we live. I wanted to show Jesus wins no matter what and the Gospel still wins.”
Adds Tim Tebow, “We all go through our own faith journey and we ask the question, why? God, where are you in this? Where are you in the hard times and all this other stuff? That’s why I feel like one of the biggest themes for me in the movie is understanding that even in your lows God loves you. He’s been chasing you and He wants to know you and support you.”
Run the Race opens this Friday in theaters nationwide.
Watch a trailer for Run the Race: