04/08/2013 04:33 PM
Jack Hoffman is not on scholarship at Nebraska, but he still led the Huskers in rushing at the team's spring scrimmage Saturday in Lincoln.
Clad in full Huskers gear, Hoffman, a 7-year-old brain cancer patient from Atkinson, Neb., ran 69 yards for the scrimmage's final touchdown.
"Jack was pretty hard to beat," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
On fourth-and-1, Hoffman took a handoff from quarterback Taylor Martinez and -- after a brief detour to the left -- followed his blockers around the right end and down the field.
Both sidelines cleared as the entire Nebraska team followed him into the end zone and players twice his height lifted Hoffman onto their shoulders.
The crowd of 60,174 at Memorial Stadium cheered as Jack celebrated -- a moment that left his father, Andy, misty-eyed on the sideline.
Asked what he was thinking when he ran onto the field, Jack said, "Scoring a touchdown."
And when he broke free and scored?
"It felt awesome," he said.
And the crowd reaction? "Really awesome."
Star Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead befriended Hoffman last year and is the captain of the support network known as "Team Jack."
Hoffman wore a miniature Burkhead uniform complete with a No. 22 jersey on Saturday.
Football operations director Jeff Jamrog and fullback C.J. Zimmerer came up with the idea to get Jack involved in the spring game. Jamrog called the Hoffmans on Friday to tell them the Huskers had a special play planned for Jack.
Receivers coach Rich Fisher motioned Jack over on the sideline to show him the play he drew up. Andy said that's when it hit him that his son really would get his day in the sun at Memorial Stadium.
"It was a lot of emotions right at once," Andy said. "Very emotional to see that. Husker fans have been so incredible to Jack and our family and especially to this cause."
Jack was diagnosed with cancer in April 2011 and has had two surgeries. He's now on a two-week break from a 60-week chemotherapy regimen.
Andy said Jack is "doing great" and that an MRI at Children's Hospital in Boston showed that the tumor has shrunk substantially in the past year.
"We're very optimistic for Jack," Andy said.
Burkhead, who is preparing for the NFL draft, said he got as much joy out of Jack's touchdown as he did for any of the ones he scored for the Huskers.
"Jack is a fighter, a strong kid," Burkhead said. "To see him run around and enjoy the Husker experience, it's a dream come true, especially for kids in the state of Nebraska. For Jack to get down here and do it, I know it made his day."
Pelini said Hoffman has impacted the team and many others in the community.
"Jack's a young man who's touched the hearts of a lot of people," the coach said. "Our football team, the student body, people have gotten behind him and he's become a big part of the team. ...
"I wasn't sure if he was going to want to do it before we brought the idea to his dad, and I thought it was a pretty special thing."
The Red team, led by Martinez's 105 yards on 8 of 10 passing, beat the White squad 30-21.