It’s hard to compete with a walk-off Hail Mary, but something very special happened at Nebraska’s spring game in 2013, the likes of which will probably never be seen again.
Jack Hoffman, a seven-year-old victim of pediatric brain cancer, had been adopted by Rex Burkhead and the rest of the Nebraska team. While Hoffman had received visits, well-wishes and many special gifts from the team, it was the 2013 spring game where he truly made his mark.
In the third quarter, Hoffman trotted onto the field and stood next to Taylor Martinez as the teams lined up. The ball was snapped, and Martinez gave the ball to Hoffman. After a little help from Martinez (Hoffman initially started running the wrong way), Hoffman took the ball around the right side and raced down the field for a touchdown.
Hoffman was followed by giant men in scarlet and cream cheering him on, and the team took Hoffman on its shoulders once he crossed the goal line. The stadium announcer shouted his name as the assembled crowd broke into a huge cheer (with more than a few misty eyes, as well).
The play, which had no fanfare or advance warning, became a viral sensation, winning an ESPY and landing the Hoffman family on television stations around the country. While Bo Pelini has many detractors for many reasons, the fact that under his leadership a moment like this happened should always be remembered.
Memorial Stadium has seen any number of touchdowns that have decided games, decided conferences and even decided national champions since its construction in 1923. But never before—and never in the future—will there ever be a better touchdown than the one scored by little Jack Hoffman that April afternoon.
What is even better news is that Hoffman’s cancer is in remission. If you want to be a part of Team Jack and help other kids suffering from cancer, go to the Team Jack Foundation website and become part of the fight. Happy new year!
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