Taylor Martinez (3) and C.J. Zimmerer (31) flank heroic Jack Hoffman (22).
By Randy York
Josh Elliott covered all major sports for Sports Illustrated before moving to ESPN in 2004. He received his MA in Journalism from Columbia University in New York City, where he now anchors Good Morning America, a show that reached a milestone on March 25 with the most first-quarter total viewers in America. That was a first for ABC in 20 years, so please forgive Elliott for deliberately going over the top Monday morning when he introduced one of America’s newest heroes – Jack Hoffman, the 7-year-old cancer patient who carved his name into Nebraska’s football record book.
Elliott teased a joint appearance from Jack and his dad, Andy, Monday morning, saying ABC would be “talking to the greatest running back in Nebraska Cornhusker history” via Skype. Later, Elliott qualified his statement. “Never before has there been a play of the day so reflected,” he said. “It might be the greatest sports moment of the year, and we’ll be talking to the person who authored it.” When Jack finally appeared on the screen with his dad from Atkinson, Neb., Elliott told the two that Jack’s run had become a “national movement over the weekend” and, of course, he’s right. Team Jack was so “national” that fans turned a #RollTide Twitter hashtag into #RollJack, plus new tags such as #GigEmJack, #HookEmJack, and on and on.
“National movement” is an accurate description, but let the record show that Jack Hoffman, Boy Wonder, goes beyond America’s borders. The video of his inspired run has been seen around the world – from Croatia, Italy and Spain to the UK, Israel and Australia. Analytics are moving so fast, in fact, that our social media team cannot get a full demographic report on the YouTube video. We can, however, confirm that 26 countries have at least 100 views apiece of Jack’s run. At least five countries have a minimum of 1,000 views each – the U.S., Canada, Australia, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Interestingly, fans from three Southeastern Conference schools (Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas) and fellow Big Ten school Michigan have used their respective fan sites to honor Jack’s “one moment in time” 69-yard touchdown … a run that’s being heard – and seen – around the world.
Here are three quick examples that landed in my personal mailbox:
1) From Sweden: Anders Berghagen was so impressed with Jack’s run, he plans to show it and discuss why it’s important with his IK Frej Taby youth soccer team. “Jack, you set a new standard on how to act. I am extremely impressed and can see you scoring a touchdown in a real game someday,” Berghagen wrote. “And Nebraska, you have a new Cornhusker fan here in Sweden! I am sending photos of my team and our fans as get well wishes for Jack.”
2) From Australia: Frank Donnelly, coordinator of pre-registration programs for the School of Nursing at the University of Adelaide in Australia, wrote to congratulate Jack and the Huskers from Down Under. “Watching the video of young Jack Hoffman score his TD as a member of your team was one of the best moments I have ever seen in sports,” Donnelly wrote. “It was moving and impressive, and an event like this is what makes America a great country.”
3) From Canada: Brian Haynes lives in Delhi, Ontario, Canada. “Kudos to the entire Nebraska team and coaching staff and especially to Rex Burkhead for his leadership,” Haynes wrote. “Watching that video was so touching because the team and the entire university have rallied around this brave little boy. To be in the stands for that run had to be the single biggest thrill for any Husker fan anywhere. Little Jack, you’re a star in more ways than one!”
Nebraska Associate Athletic Director Jamie Williams agrees. “Jack’s jaunt brought tears to my eyes,” said Williams, a former Husker tight end who became a co-captain and a Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers. “All the emails we’ve received and the all the media coverage we’ve had truly illustrate that sport is a vehicle that can transcend itself. It can illuminate the spirit and highlight the greatness of humanity. I’m proud to be a Husker, and I’m like every Husker fan and all of our new fans coming aboard across the country and around the world. Every time we watch that video, we say ‘Run, Jack, Run!’”
Indeed. Huskers.com and The N-Sider have received emails that reinforce Williams’ big-picture view of an impromptu decision to honor Little Jack for his courage, his confidence and his friendship with Burkhead, one of the most dedicated, inspirational and popular players in Nebraska football history. Stay tuned. We’re still sorting through all the feedback, so don’t be surprised when you learn that fans supporting some of Nebraska’s biggest rivals are now Husker fans, too, thanks to Jack Hoffman, Boy Wonder.
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Team Jack Views from Global Fans
You just never can tell. You reach the ripe old age of 70 and think you’ve seen just about everything once (and maybe twice). Being a transplanted Husker living in the far away land of Wales, you get on the net to see how the Spring Game went. You know, seeing how the new QB’s are shaking out, if the untested linebackers have bite, how the no-name tight ends are doing, and, oh, has anybody turned up at defensive tackle?. Then stone the crows. A 7-year-old kid who has absorbed more knocks than most of us get in a lifetime takes a handoff and runs 69 yards. One hundred years of Husker history chanting ‘Go Big Red’ is out window and replaced by a new chant of ‘Run Jack Run!’ Sometimes sport mimics life. Sometimes sport is life. But only rarely is sport greater than life, transcending the human experience. Jack Hoffman has taught me I haven’t seen everything yet. GO HUSKERS! I MEAN, RUN JACK RUN! James Weaver, Powys, Wales, UK
Thanks so much for the excellent update on the Team Jack story! My husband and I have been Husker fans for a long time. So we’ve been watching the growth of Team Jack via football and the Husker sites ever since Rex started this great support idea of kids with cancer. We’ve been praying for Jack and his family. We live in Japan and the Internet has sure made it easier to follow the Huskers now compared to when we first moved here in 1988. Back then, we had to wait 10 days for cut-outs from the OWH Sunday sports page to arrive in our mailbox. We think that the NU coaching personnel and players who devised this plan and pulled it off deserve not only a huge cheer of gratitude, but we hope that this will also mean more funds will be donated to the foundation to funnel toward research for cures. Jack and his family are an incredible inspiration and the deep faith that keeps them fighting the battle day after day shows how personal it is for them. We couldn’t be more proud of our Huskers! Japanese know very little about American football but I am trying to figure out how I can work some of this video and story into my ESL classes in the weeks to come. Sincerely, Kathy Trim (and Murray Trim), Hyogo Ken, Japan
I saw the video of Little Jack’s fantastic run. I have been hit by the story cause my child is 6 years old. We thank God that we could see our son running. Unluckily, I and my wife know a tragedy like this. A friend of ours has a child (3 years old) with a very rare disease and hopeless illness. We together have to do anything to fight this war against these pathologies and defeat them. Doing what you’ve done, you have won a battle. The road is still long, but now, thanks to the Nebraska Cornhusker Team, i hope, a few less will suffer. Continue this way. Be proud of your guys. Be proud of Jack. Marco A. Bianchi, Bellano (Lake of Como), Italy
As a proud Class of ‘79 alumni and a lifelong Husker fan, I can say I have never been prouder to call myself a HUSKER than I was after watching Jack Hoffman’s 69-yard touchdown run. I will continue to wear with even more pride my Nebraska hats and sweatshirts and be the biggest Nebraska fan in Southeast China. Vic Carter, Qingyuan, China