Photo credit - Patrick Runge
Spring games are always a chance to do something a little out of the ordinary on behalf of the fans. But this year, Nebraska may have set a standard that will be tough to beat.
In the fourth quarter, the public address announcer told the crowd that playing I-back was Jack Hoffman, a seven-year-old pediatric brain cancer patient who was befriended by I-back Rex Burkhead and became the basis for the Team Jack fundraising movement.
Wearing Burkhead’s No. 22 jersey (well, a kid-sized version of one), Hoffman stood next to Taylor Martinez in a two-back shotgun formation. Martinez took the snap and gave the ball to Hoffman. After a little help from Martinez to make sure he was going the right way, Hoffman sprinted around the right end and turned upfield.
With a wall of blockers behind him, and to the adoring roar of the assembled Children of the Corn, Hoffman ran 69 yards for a touchdown that went up on the scoreboard and into the official stat sheet for the spring game. And the kid ran it the whole way, never slowing down or needing to stop for a breath. I’m not certain I could match that feat, and I’m not a pediatric brain cancer patient.
Once Hoffman scored, both benches cleared. Hoffman was lifted onto the shoulders of the assembled team and cheered off the field. Could Nebraska be at risk of an NCAA violation for allowing someone other than a player on the roster to participate in the spring game? Knowing the NCAA, most likely.
But it doesn’t matter. There are many lists of the greatest touchdowns in Memorial Stadium’s storied history. But none will match the emotional impact of Hoffman’s score on Saturday.