ATKINSON, Neb. (AP) — A boy with brain cancer who scored a touchdown at a Nebraska practice game is playing football for real.
Jack Hoffman took the field Monday to play center for his West Holt junior high team in Atkinson, situated 179 miles northwest of Omaha.
His proud father, Andy Hoffman, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the 13-year-old played every down at center and some defense.
“I’m happy Jack got to do that and I’m just overwhelmed,” Hoffman told the Omaha World-Herald earlier this week. “I’m sad, on the other hand, that other kids don’t get these opportunities.”
Jack was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011 and underwent chemotherapy. He soon was befriended by Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead — now a pro with the New England Patriots — and drew national attention in 2013 when he ran for a 69-yard, player-assisted touchdown in the Huskers’ spring game.
His family has rallied behind its nonprofit, the Team Jack Foundation , which Andy Hoffman said has raised more than $8 million for pediatric brain cancer research.
Jack relapsed in 2014 and participated in a clinical trial, his dad said. The mass next to his brain stem showed signs of worsening in 2018, and now Jack is in a clinical trial of a drug regimen originally created for melanoma patients.
Jack also has epilepsy and is prone to seizures, his dad said. The boy takes 23 pills a day, some to manage epilepsy and others for cancer.
Andy Hoffman and his wife, Bri, checked with Jack’s doctors when it became clear their son wanted to follow his family’s football tradition.
“This isn’t something that we’re shoving down his throat,” his dad said. “This is Jack wanting to play football.”
Jack’s doctors were more concerned about the risks of football in general than any danger posed by his cancer and seizures.
“They don’t want to put him in a bubble,” Andy Hoffman said.
Ultimately, the Hoffmans left the football decision to Jack. He chose to play.
His coaches have been trained to recognize signs that Jack is about to undergo a seizure, and at least one coach carries an emergency seizure medication in his pocket for Jack. The boy averages three to four seizures a month.
“Whether you have a brain tumor or not, you should make the most out of today,” Andy Hoffman said. “That’s what Jack’s doing.”