Thousands pack UF football stadium for graduation where Tim Tebow spoke

Tens of thousands of people roared with excitement as Gainesville legend Tim Tebow stepped up to the microphone to address the University of Florida Class of 2022.

For a moment, the atmosphere seemed reminiscent of but an intimate version of a rival SEC home game during the Gator’s 2009 National Championship.

Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, addressed more than 3,000 graduates on the field he once dominated at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Friday night, reminding the sea of ​​caps and black dresses that the evening wasn’t about him.

“Tonight is about you,” he said. “I want you to be encouraged because you have achieved something special.”

University of Florida graduates enter the Spring 2022 Kickoff Ceremony held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on April 29, 2022. Florida Gators great Tim Tebow was the first speaker.  He talked about not just being successful, but being sure you were important.

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Throughout his address at the university-wide launch event, Tebow graced the crowd with humor, encouragement and emotion.

University of Florida graduates applaud the cameras during the Spring 2022 Kickoff Ceremony held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on April 29, 2022. Florida Gators great Tim Tebow was the keynote speaker of start.  He talked about not just being successful, but being sure you were important.

He shared his experiences in the Philippines where he did humanitarian work, talking about an impoverished and malnourished little boy he saw wearing his football shirt.

“Tears were streaming down my face when I saw this boy,” said Tebow, who received the UF Distinguished Alumnus award before taking the stage.

“I hope you succeed,” he said. “I hope whatever you do, you crush it. But I hope it doesn’t stop at success because you know where success stops… (with) you. But the meaning is about others . Succeed, but also be meaningful.”

University of Florida great Tim Tebow delivers the keynote address at the Spring 2022 Kickoff Ceremony to be held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on April 29, 2022. University of Florida great Tim Tebow Florida Gators was the keynote speaker.  He talked about not just being successful, but being sure you were important.  [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

People from all over the world filled the stands in support of the promotion.

The graduating class represented six continents, 89 countries and all 50 states, including 794 first-generation college graduates, UF President Kent Fuchs said.

The sisters, Tracy Ruda and Valerie Marvin traveled from out of town to join in this year’s celebration. Rude – from Fort Wayne, Indiana – and Marvin – from Pearland, Texas – said they were thrilled to see their niece finally cross the stage.

Before people were allowed into the stadium for the event, queues formed outside the Lee Chira Family Heisman Plaza, where graduates and family posed in front of bronze statues of Tim Tebow, Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel.

The wait allowed attendees like Rude to wander parts of the scenic UF campus before graduation on the cool, breezy evening.

Families and friends watch as University of Florida graduates make their way to the Spring 2022 Kickoff Ceremony to be held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on April 29, 2022. Florida great Tim Tebow Gators was the opening speaker.  He talked about not just being successful, but being sure you were important.  [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

“The oaks with the moss, the buildings, it’s a beautiful campus,” Rude said.

Raynell Jones, an Alaskan native who earned his master’s degree in forensic science on Friday, said his time at UF was a “great experience.”

Jones’ family was just one of thousands who cheered and cheered in recognition of the milestone as each person walked across the stage.

A University of Florida graduate does the Gators Chomp as she walks to the Spring 2022 kickoff ceremony being held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on April 29, 2022. The great Tim Tebow from Florida Gators was the opening speaker.  He talked about not just being successful, but being sure you were important.  [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

“As a father of four adult children, I know how important this day is to the families and friends of these graduates,” Fuchs said. “And I want to congratulate and thank the family members and friends here today for your support and dedication to these graduates. We feel your joy and relief.

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