There is a video from 2013 making its way around social media this week about a young boy from Nebraska named Jack Hoffman.
In 2011, five-year-old Jack Hoffman was a normal, healthy boy with a bright future. Then one day in April, life changed for Jack and his family when he had a massive seizure. In short order Jack was seeing all manner of doctors and specialists. It was determined that he had a large, malignant tumor situated at his brain stem. Jack underwent surgery but the doctors were only able to remove some of the golf ball-sized tumor. Jack’s seizures continued at an alarming rate and it became clear that a second surgery was needed. The risk of the second surgery was so great that the doctors weren’t sure if Jack would survive it, but his parents ultimately decided that they would have to have the surgery performed.
Jack’s father Andy put a bucket list together of the things Jack wanted to do in the event that the surgery wasn’t successful. Jack was a huge fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team and particularly of Rex Burkhart, the team’s running back at the time. A few weeks prior to Jack’s surgery the family piled into the car and drove to Lincoln where Jack got to meet and have lunch with his hero.
In October of that same year, against many odds, Jack survived the second surgery. Doctors were able to remove 95% of the tumor and things started to look up, if only a little bit. He began an intense chemotherapy course that lasted 60 weeks. The doctors ran more tests and found that the chemo had reduced the remaining tumor drastically.
In 2013, the coaches at Nebraska were looking to mix things up at their annual spring game. Some of the coaches suggested that they get young Jack involved. As Burkhart had been a champion of Jack’s, the team had become very familiar with his situation and visited him often over his two year struggle. (Burkhart even started a chapter of Uplifting Athletes, a non-profit group that raised over $300,000 for pediatric brain tumor research.) Jeff Jamrog, Director of Football Operations for Nebraska, called Jack’s father and asked if they would attend the game. Jamrog then surprised them by saying that they wanted Jack to suit up and play a down with the team.
Jack and his family made the trip to the stadium where Jack was reintroduced to the team as “the toughest kid in Nebraska. Today he’s going to fight with you.” Jack spent the first half of the game on the sidelines with the team. Then, in the third quarter, a number of players surrounded him as he changed into his makeshift uniform. With ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, coach Bo Pelini decided that it was time for Jack to take the field. Quarterback Taylor Martinez had a quick huddle with Jack, discussed the play and then took the field.
At second-and-ten with over 60 yards to the goal line, Martinez was in the shotgun position with Jack to his left. Martinez took the snap and handed the ball to Jack, who promptly ran in the wrong direction. Martinez got him turned around and Jack kicked into high gear, running around the right end and cruising a full 69 yards downfield to score a touchdown. By the time Jack reached the goal line, both sidelines had cleared and every player was in the end zone, hoisting Jack up on their shoulders to celebrate with a crowd of over 60,000 on their feet roaring with applause.
In the years following, Jack has been a busy boy. He and Burkhart got to meet with President Obama in the Oval Office, the Upper Deck trading card company made a player card for Jack (the $50,000 proceeds of which went to the Team Jack Foundation) and he won the Best Moment ESPY award. Jack’s touchdown run was also listed as the fifth most emotional sports moment of 2013 by USA Today and he was one of five nominees for the 2013 Sportsman Of The Year by Sports Illustrated.
In 2014 Jack’s tumor returned and his family sought treatment by a genetics specialist in Boston where he took part in a clinical trial that is showing promising results. Today though, Jack continues with his treatments and is a normal 5th grader, playing baseball and enjoying time with his family and friends.
You can read more about Team Jack at their Facebook page here.