It’s pretty easy to pick out who is cheering for the Nebraska Cornhuskers on a Saturday. They are the group of people clad in red chanting “Go Big Red”. They refer to themselves as the “Sea of Red” or “Husker Nation”. They may even have a distinguishable large yellow ear of corn on their head. These are the diehard fans that follow their favorite team through good times and bad, through periods of wins and losses. With coaches who are held in high enough regard to be elected to political office and coaches who have gone on profanity laced tirades about the fans. These are the people rooting for the Huskers.
Who are the Huskers rooting for? The Huskers have been rooting for a young boy from Atkinson Nebraska named Jack Hoffman. Jack got to attend his first Nebraska football game in September of 2010, but he did not need to be sitting in Memorial Stadium to develop his love for Husker football. The passion for Husker Football had already overtaken the young boy. In April of the following year this young man whom already had his own team of supporters was rushed to the hospital, his ongoing battle with brain cancer had deteriorated. Those supporting “Team Jack” would need to grow. More prayers, smiles and support were needed for Jack. On May 20, 2011 Jack needed surgery to remove a tumor in his brain. The seven-hour surgery was not the success that Jack’s team had hoped for as the doctors were unable to remove the entire tumor.
Jack would need to undergo another surgery, but this time he would first get some support that was a dream come true for the young man. Rex Burkhead, the Huskers tailback at the time, made time to meet Jack and even received a gift from Jack, a “Team Jack” bracelet that Rex wears to this day. The young boy touched his idol’s heart that day and Team Jack had their first Husker player on board. Jack inspired Rex and the Huskers to a comeback victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes after their meeting, and their meeting inspired Jack to endure the lengthy second surgery.
In the years since Jack has continued to follow the Huskers even though Burkhead has moved on in his career and currently plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. Jack has developed relationships with Taylor Martinez, Coach Bo Pelini, and many of the current Husker players who still to this day wear the “Team Jack” bracelets.
This relationship was forged to inspire a young man, but the young man ended up inspiring not only a great tailback and man in Burkhead but also an entire team and a an entire nation, “Husker Nation”. This spring Jack was able to participate in the Huskers’ spring game, and he scored on a 69-yard touchdown run with quarterback Taylor Martinez leading the way. The coaching staff and players were able to put away the seriousness of their spring game for this young man. Jack was filled with exuberance after the run, but one wonders whether his excitement was eclipsed by those who were able to make the moment happen. These players were rooting on their favorite team, “Team Jack”.
Jack received an ESPY award for his touchdown run. That was not the most amazing moment for Jack in recent history. This fall Jack received some more amazing news that his cancer was in remission. The long, painful battle with cancer may be coming to a conclusion, but the great moments that were shared by all who watched this courageous young man battle the disease will live on for a long time in the hearts and minds of all of Husker Nation.