Ever since he burst into the American consciousness when he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore quarterback for the University of Florida in 2007, Tim Tebow has maintained a surprisingly high profile for a man who has had one career setback after another. Tossed from the Denver Broncos despite leading that team to a remarkable turnaround, he bounced across three other NFL teams before landing in his current position as a minor league outfielder with the New York Mets.
Most men with that sort of track record would be cast aside and forgotten by the masses, but Tebow’s strong and outspoken Christian faith, manifested during his football days by frequent on-field displays of prayer, made him a hero and role model to millions. That notoriety is likely to pay off again with the release of “Run the Race,” a movie about two small-town Alabama brothers who try to use sports to escape their difficult lives via college athletic scholarships, with which Tebow is making his debut as a film producer alongside his right-hand man and brother, Robby.
In the film, Zach Truett (Tanner Stine) and his younger brother Dave (Evan Hofer) have had the deck stacked against them their whole lives. Their mom suffered and then died from cancer two years ago, after which their alcoholic father Michael (Kristoffer Polaha) abandoned them.
They’ve been getting by working in a supermarket owned by their godmother Nanny (Frances Fisher), but their dream is for Zach to get a football scholarship with his amazing abilities as a star running back and take Dave along with him. But just as Zach is on his way to seeming greatness, he loses his temper in an argument with a rival player and tears his vital ACL ligament in the ensuing fight.
It seems all is over, but Dave doesn’t lose faith in the future, even as Zach does. Dave had a football injury the year before that left him with grand mal seizures, adding to the seemingly unendurable pileup of problems.
But when Zach meets a pretty nurse intern named Ginger and Dave hatches a plan to win a track scholarship and take Zach along with him to college, hope starts to bloom again. The question remains whether Zach can learn to put his full trust in God in order to turn his hardships into victories.
The Tebows have chosen well for their first production, as “Race” is a classic underdog story that is extremely well-made and could very well cross-over to non-Christian audiences in the same way that last year’s smash hit “I Can Only Imagine.” It should be noted that the same distributor, Roadside Attractions, handles both films, and they deserve commendation for being a secular distributor willing to give strong support to faith-based films.
The Tebows’ names and experiences not only helped draw greater investors and a solid distribution deal that otherwise would have likely been out of reach for the film. Their clout also helped draw thousands of extras to the Florida Gators’ Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to form an authentic crowd for climactic game scenes.
“I love the story, and I love being a part of something so inspirational, with so much courage and conviction behind it,” Tim Tebow said in a recent phone interview. “When I read the script, I cried four or five times, and just decided this is something that I want to be behind.”
The performances are outstanding across the board, as is the impressive sense of grit that co-writer/director Chris Dowling brings to the movie. This is a movie that feels authentic to its setting and the emotional and spiritual struggles its characters are facing, and manages to bring Christ front and center in a dramatically suitable way rather than being forcefully over-the-top — and in a way that’s not off-putting to Catholics.
All in all, “Run the Race” is a terrific tale of family, forgiveness and redemption told in the arena of small-town sports and it is highly recommended viewing for teens and adults.
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