Cancer Child’s Dream Comes True

Where’s Waldo? I mean Jack (courtesy of YouTube/Huskers.com)

During Saturday’s Spring Game at Memorial Stadium, the Nebraska Cornhuskers did something that will forever change the life of 7-year-old pediatric brain cancer survivor Jack Hoffman.

Jack was diagnosed with the disease several years ago and has already lived through two surgeries and endless rounds of chemotherapy, which continue to this day. Jack’s tumor shrank quite a bit during this time and his parents hope to see an end to the chemo this summer, but there are no guarantees.

In other words, Jack has been through a lot. And the Huskers sympathize, especially Coach Bo Pelini. In 2011, when Jack was first diagnosed with brain cancer, Pelini arranged for him to meet his favorite Nebraska player, I-back Rex Burkhead. And this year, he completely outdid himself.

Last Friday night, Jack’s father Andy got a call from the Nebraska coaches and heard what Pelini had planned. He made certain that Jack was on the field the next day—in uniform along with the rest of the team—but nothing could prepare his brave young son for what was to come.

During the first half, Jack stood on the sideline and watched the game with his favorite team, including his hero Burkhead. Halftime came and went and, by all measures, it was a decent game. The third quarter ended. The fourth quarter started and the clock started winding down. Then, with only eight minutes or so remaining, it happened.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez called Jack onto the field. After a brief huddle with Coach Pelini and a graduate assistant to review the play, the time had come.

Jack took his place behind Martinez, becoming the youngest (and smallest) running back in Huskers football history… as far as I know. And what happened next is nothing short of miraculous, not to mention touching in ways that even bring tears to my eyes… and I’m completely devoid of all emotion!

I’m kidding, of course.

It was 2nd and 10 from the Red team‘s 31-yard-line when the ball was snapped and handed to Jack, who initially ran the wrong way. Martinez set him straight and seconds later Jack was off, trucking down the field with both the offense and defense cheering him along… as well as the more than 60,000 fans in attendance and everyone on the bench.

Sixty-nine yards later, Jack crossed the goal line and scored his first—and likely not his last—touchdown. He even went down in Huskers history as the leading rusher for the day!

Jack is the toughest Husker I know! (courtesy of ABC News)

At that point, the place went nuts!

Players converged on Jack in a wave of red and white, lifting him onto their shoulders and chanting his name over and over again. Fans screamed and cheered the young player as he lived his dream. His wish had come true, and then some!

It’s enough to make a grown man cry… or so I’ve heard. Really. It wasn’t me.

See for yourself if you don’t believe me, because it’s right here.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Jack, his struggle with pediatric brain cancer or the disease itself, take a little trip to the Team Jack Legacy Fund or the Team Jack Facebook page. They’re worth a visit.

You’re the man, Jack!

Posted on April 9, 2013, in Family, Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. What a great story! My sister was telling me today about a 5 year old boy in my niece’s class who just passed from Leukemia. Before he died though he and his family (at his urging) starting collecting donated clothes and toys for the kids at the Ronald McDonald Houses because even at 5 he could see the needs of the people surrounding him and wanted to help in spite of his own illness. Kids sometimes understand more than we give them credit for. Hopefully this kid will have a long and happy life and no doubt he’ll ever forget making that touchdown…

    • I hope so, Marty. And you’re right. Kids can be pretty sharp, not to mention extremely sweet. Like the child you described. I hate what happened to him, but think about the positive impact he made in such a short time. We could all learn something from his example. Thanks so much for sharing that 🙂

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