Friday December 7, 2012

By The Associated Press

Tim Tebow made perhaps his biggest play of the season earlier this week.

The Jets backup quarterback, who hasn’t participated in the last two games while recovering from two broken ribs, responded to a Twitter campaign that urged him to call a teenager from upstate New York injured in a car accident.

Matt Hardy, a 17-year-old student at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, N.Y., was hospitalized Saturday night after being hurt in the crash that killed two fellow students. The hashtag (hash)TebowCallMatt began circulating on Twitter a few hours later by some of Hardy’s friends, and was retweeted by thousands of users on the social network.

Tebow heard about the campaign and got in touch Monday night with Hardy, whose brother Michael tweeted that the quarterback was "a class act" for calling.

"We talked for a while and he was just in awesome spirits for what had taken place," Tebow said. "He was just an inspiration to me. You call him, trying to encourage him, trying to say a few words of inspiration, but the way his attitude was and his focus, it was just awesome. The support from his friends around him was just so cool. You could hear them on the phone. They had it on speaker."

A similar Twitter campaign was started by friends asking Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin to call Bailey Wind, who was also injured in the accident.


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Franklin tweeted Monday that she left Wind a voicemail.

Hardy’s number was posted for Tebow on Twitter, and when he called, one of Hardy’s friends answered.

"It took a few minutes to convince them," Tebow said, laughing. "It was like, ‘I promise, it’s really me."’

Tebow’s foundation hosts sick children and their families at every Jets game home and away, and he’s humbled by how many people he connects with and affects on a regular basis.

"You feel almost not worthy of being wanted to talk to somebody," he said. "You think of, ‘What have I done to deserve an opportunity to try to encourage a kid like that?’ It’s worth everything and it’s awesome.

"It’s better than any touchdown I’ll ever score."

MAKING THE YOUTH GAME SAFER, PART 1

More than 3,600 schools and youth sports organizations across the United States have been able to offer baseline testing for athletes this season.

The PACE program sponsored by the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation arranged for up to 300 free tests at each locale. The tests have continued beyond football season to highlight the importance of continued concussion education and the understanding that concussions can affect all athletes.

"Concussions continue to be a serious issue in all sports, not just football," said Drew Brees, the spokesman for PACE (Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education). "Baseline testing should be a priority at all levels of competition, but it starts in youth sports. Young athletes competing in basketball, hockey, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse and baseball are all at risk for a concussion."

MAKING THE YOUTH GAME SAFER, PART 2

USA Football, the governing Body for the sport in America, is staging an instructional video shoot for its coaching certification course that already has helped train more than 100,000 youth coaches since 2007.

The video will be available for America’s youth football community free of charge at usafootball.com.

Presented in partnership with St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, the video will emphasize the USA Football’s "Heads Up Football" program that emphasizes safer tackling, concussion awareness employing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols, and proper equipment fitting.

Also demonstrated will be USA Football’s levels of contact system that introduces contact in gradual steps to build players’ confidence and improve motor skill development while minimizing contact in practice sessions.

"I think this overall approach and the specific techniques within the program are exactly the next steps we need to take to improve head safety in tackle football," said Dr. Gerard A. Gioia, pediatric neuropsychologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. "The effort to teach effective, yet safe tackling and blocking techniques at the earliest youth levels can only have positive downstream benefits for our players at the high school, college and professional levels."