Tim Tebow has said he is heartbroken over the death of his high school football coach, who he fondly remembered as a mentor and father figure who "changed" his life.
Craig Howard, who coached Tebow at Nease High School before leading Southern Oregon to the NAIA national championship, passed away last week at the age of 64, according to CBS Sports.
The 29-year-old athlete took to Twitter to reflect on Howard's passing and share a black-and-white photo of himself with the late coach.
The Heisman Trophy winner captioned the photo: "Heartbreaking to lose my coach Craig Howard today. More than a coach, he was a mentor & father figure. He changed my life & I will miss him!"
The school released the news in a statement, saying that Howard died at home Thursday night after a day of recruiting. Howard coached Tebow in Jacksonville, Florida, where they won the state championship in 2005. According to the Jacksonville Times, in his time at Nease alone, Howard sent nearly 50 players on to Division I football and " changed the way high school football offenses worked, forcing defenses to catch up in a hurry or get blown off the field."
"He was a great man who touched a lot of live[s]," Howard's son, Bo, told the outlet. "Many men are raising families with character, strength and honor because of him."
Howard coached high school football in Florida from 2003 to 2010 and returned to his home state in 2011 to coach a struggling Southern Oregon football team. Under his guidance, the Raiders turned things around, winning the 2014 NAIA title and falling one victory short of a repeat in 2015, according to the AP.
"Coach Howard was energized, passionate and as full of love as ever," Southern Oregon athletic director Matt Sayre said in a statement. "He loved his team, his coaches, the recruits he and his staff were talking with and signing, and - above all - his family."
On Tebow's Instagram, a number of fans expressed their sorrow over Howard's passing and offered prayer and words of encouragement for the athlete.
"So sorry for your loss Tim. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" Matthew 5:4," wrote on fan.
"Praying for you, his family, friends, and your fellow players. Comfort, and peace," wrote another.
"So sorry for your loss. Yes, may his legacy live on through you and the lives of others he has changed. Praying for the peace of Jesus to rest upon your hearts and give you comfort during this time," wrote another.
"I am so sorry for the loss of your mentor. My thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and to all those young men whose lives he affected," wrote another.