I didn’t want to make it a one-time deal. I wanted to be with him throughout the journey. —Rex Burkhead, former Nebraska running back
When Jack Hoffman suited up and ran 69 yards for a touchdown in Nebraska's Red and White scrimmage, it was the culmination of a two-year fight for life.
Hoffman, a 7-year-old Nebraska boy, was diagnosed in 2011 with a malignant brain tumor that caused severe seizures, some of which lasted up to 30 minutes at a time, according to ESPN. After multiple life-threatening surgeries and a strict 60-week regimen of chemotherapy, the tumor has since nearly disappeared.
A detailed ESPN report outlines how Hoffman went from rural cancer patient to star of the Cornhusker spring game. According to the report, Jack Hoffman and his father Andy came up with a list of things they wanted to do together just in case the boy didn't survive. The younger Hoffman expressed his desire to meet then-Nebraska junior running back Rex Burkhead. So in the fall of 2011, the Hoffman's drove for hours from their home in Atkinson, Neb. to Lincoln to have lunch with Burkhead and tour Memorial Stadium.
“I didn’t want to make it a one-time deal,” Burkhead told the Daily Nebraskan. “I wanted to be with him throughout the journey.”
Burkhead was integral in involving the young Nebraska boy into the Cornhusker football program and has made a significant impact on behalf of cancer-stricken children everywhere. He helped launch a chapter of Uplifting Athletes known as "Team Jack," which has raised more than $300,000 for pediatric tumor research.
Uplifiting Athletes is a non-profit organization that works to raise money and awareness for rare diseases with the help of collegiate football players.
Hoffman is well-known and beloved by the team. On Sept. 29, 2012, he led the Cornhuskers out of the tunnel with another cancer-stricken boy to their 30-27 victory over Wisconsin. It was Nebraska's 2012 Big 10 opener. Several members of the team wear "Team Jack" bracelets — Hoffman himself gave Burkhead a "Team Jack" bracelet, and Burkhead hasn't taken it off since — and have visited him regularly throughout his 60-week chemotherapy treatment.
When the spring football season at the University of Nebraska was near an end, and when the football team was trying to think of a way to make the spring game extra special, Hoffman was a natural fit. Head coach Bo Pelini made the call to the Hoffman family, and Jack agreed to play. In the third quarter, Hoffman made his play, and the whole Cornhusker team, both offense and defense, ran to the end zone to celebrate with him.
Since Saturday's game, the video of Hoffman's 69-yard run has gone viral, topping out at more than 4.5 million views since it was posted last Saturday. The Hoffmans have been featured on ESPN, Good Morning America, The Huffington Post, USA Today, The Daily Nebraskan, Fox News, Omaha.com and The Washington Post among others.
Jack Hoffman may have summed up the whole experience best.
"It was awesome," he said.
Yes. Yes it was.