Guenther: Little Jack inspires the masses

2013-04-10T22:00:00Z 2013-04-12T20:21:04Z Guenther: Little Jack inspires the massesBy Dylan Guenther / dguenther@columbustelegram.com Columbus Telegram

There's no place like Nebraska.

It's a phrase you've probably heard thousands of times in Husker country. Usually, it's the consecutive sellout streak, the way the fans applaud the opponent after the game – win or lose, the nation-leading Academic All-American list, the walk-ons, the blackshirts or the national championships that are cited as proof.

On Saturday, it was Jack Hoffman.

In front of 60,174 fans in their seats and countless others in front of their TVs, Jack stole the show at the Red-White Spring Game with his 69-yard touchdown run. The 7-year-old boy fighting pediatric brain cancer pulled off the greatest moment in Nebraska history.

And nobody saw it coming.

After quarterback turned graduate assistant Joe Ganz drew up a play for Jack on the sideline, he took his stance to Taylor Martinez's left before taking the handoff wearing the familiar No. 22 jersey.

After befriending Jack, Rex Burkhead helped bring his story to everyone in Husker Nation with Team Jack, and on Saturday he stood on the sideline watching as Jack had the experience of a lifetime, garnering national and global attention along the way.

Jack took the ball and started running left before Martinez steered him to the right, and after he hit the corner, you knew he was gone. The way he used his blockers was reminiscent of Burkhead, and the way Jack was able to hit another gear at the 30 yard line was inspiring.

Jack is on a two-week break from his 60-week chemotherapy treatment, but he had just one goal in mind.

“Scoring a touchdown,” Jack answered when asked what he was thinking as he took the field.

The video has been viewed nearly 6 million times already on YouTube, while Jack and his dad, Andy Hoffman, have been guests on Good Morning America and ESPN. Jack's touchdown was ESPN's top play Saturday and got voted ESPN's Best of the Best, supplanting Jedevion Clowney's crushing blow against Michigan in the Outback Bowl over three months ago.

Kudos to fullback C.J. Zimmerer and football operations director Jeff Jamrog for coming up with the idea, and it says a lot about Bo Pelini and the kind of program he's running. He could have easily just let Jack come out with the team for the tunnel walk again, but he stepped it up a notch when he let him live his dream of scoring a touchdown as a part of his beloved Huskers.

After the spring game was canceled last year, Pelini pulled out all the stops Saturday with the BTN cameras rolling. He wanted to show what Nebraska is all about.

Mission accomplished.

It's true, Husker fans like their football. They have high expectations for their team, and Saturday's spring game surpassed all of them.

Most Husker fans would probably think back to Touchdown Tommie shedding Gators at the 1996 Fiesta bowl as their favorite individual play by a Husker, but Jack's touchdown may have just taken the crown.

Instead of juking defenders and shedding tackers, little Jack was shedding tears -- just not his own. There probably wasn't a dry eye in the stadium.

In what seems like a corruption-filled world of college athletics these days, Nebraska stands out for doing things the right way.

And best of all, it was for a good cause.

If you want to make a donation to Team Jack, visit teamjackfoundation.org.

Dylan Guenther is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Contact him at dguenther@columbustelegram.com with questions, comments and story ideas. Or follow the Telegram Sports Staff on Twitter at CTelegramSports.

Copyright 2015 Columbus Telegram. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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