By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican
As those words roll off your lips, you immediately hear the tune in your head and all of the sudden, you hear yourself singing the Nebraska fight song.
“There is no place like Nebraska . . . Good old Nebraska U . . .
Where the girls are the fairest . . . The boys are the squarest . . . Of any old place that I know . . . There is no place like Nebraska . . .
Where they’re all true blue . . . We’ll all stick together . . . in all kinds of weather . . . for dear old Nebraska U!!!”
There is no place like Nebraska and that never rang more true than on Tom Osborne Field in Memorial Stadium during the Red-White game Saturday.
A young 7-year-old cancer patient by the name of Jack Hoffman from Atkinson captivated Memorial Stadium, Nebraska and the nation with an historic 69-yard touchdown run.
In April 2011, young Jack went to the ER with a blank stare from a seizure caused by a brain tumor. He underwent brain surgery a month later. The bad news—doctors were only able to get a portion of the tumor.
After a second opinion, his parents opted for another surgery, one he may not wake up from.
At age 5, Jack went to his first Husker football game. His parents bought him a #22 Rex Burkhead jersey. And he became Rex’s biggest fan.
Before his second surgery in October 2011, Jack’s parents asked the university if Jack could meet Rex.
Although he is from Texas,
Burkhead has found his way into the hearts of all Husker Nation due to his character, attitude and perseverance.
The September 2011 meeting between the two impacted Rex as much as it did Jack. Three weeks later, with Jack watching from his bed in a Boston hospital awaiting surgery, Burkhead scored two touchdowns to rally Nebraska over Ohio State for its biggest come-from-behind victory in Husker history.
In an interview, Burkhead said he knew Jack wouldn’t give up so he knew he couldn’t give up either. With tons of prayers and Rex behind him, Jack’s surgery was a success.
The Huskers often do outreach to hospitals, schools and other events. But Rex would always take it a step further, according to Mathew May of Imperial, a former teammate of Burkhead.
For those who knew Burkhead, that was “just Rex.” He would always think of others before looking out for himself, May said. Rex really connected with Jack and his family, he added.
In April 2012, Jack’s brain tumor returned and Jack began a rigourous 60-week chemo treatment.
Fast forward to Saturday.
Wearing #22, Jack took the field for a special play, one that took him around the right end, galloping down the field on a 69-yard touchdown run, with Huskers at his side. After crossing the goal line, each and every Husker encircled Jack, as he was raised into the air.
The crowd went crazy and cheered Jack on as their new hero forever became a part of Husker lore. Jack’s touchdown run touched people not just in Nebraska but all across America. As of Wednesday, Jack’s run has amassed more than 5.4 million views on You Tube!
Jack, Rex and his Husker teammates and coaches have provided inspiration for many others facing life-threatening issues.
Perhaps the story could have unfolded on some other team, in some other state. But it didn’t. It happened right here in Nebraska.
Just like the words from the song . . . There is NO place like Nebraska!!!
To see videos of Jack’s fabled run and the Big 10 feature on Rex and Jack, go to these You Tube links: