I Met a Hero on a Nebraska Hunt

Jack Hoffman, holding a custom Henry .22 rifle given to him by auction-hunt winners Robert and Riley Colson. This is … Continued

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Jack Hoffman, holding a custom Henry .22 rifle given to him by auction-hunt winners Robert and Riley Colson.

This is 7-year-old Jack Hoffman. You might recognize him; he’s pretty famous. Jack’s 69-yard touchdown run at the 2013 Nebraska Cornhusker’s Spring Game landed him on the news and talk-show circuit, in the Oval Office to meet the President, and at ESPN’s latest awards ceremony where he took home an ESPY for “Best Moment” in sports.

Jack is a true hero. While fighting his own battle with pediatric brain cancer, he–along with his family and the Team Jack Foundation–has raised more than a million dollars to help find a cure for the more than 3,000 other kids who are diagnosed with the disease every year.

I got to meet Jack on a recent Nebraska whitetail hunt sponsored by Nikon, Winchester, and Thompson Center. Our host James Brion, owner of Gobble ‘N Grunt Outfitters and co-host of The Zone TV show, had donated a hunt to the Team Jack Foundation, which they auctioned to winning-bidder Robert Colson, who gave the hunt to his son Riley. Jack (not old enough to hunt himself) was their lead guide.

Naturally, when you meet someone who (1) is a celebrity, (2) is dealing with something you cannot fathom, and (3) has his own Nebraska Cornhusker trading card, you wonder in a small and selfish way, What will I say? I went with, “Race you to the truck!”

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Jack, just being a kid.

And so Jack kicked my butt back and forth to the vehicle about a half a dozen times. Then he thumped me in several of games of 500 (using a blaze-orange stocking cap instead of a baseball), and then he blew me away in a contest of musical armpits. He was a joy to have in camp; it was like hanging out with my own kids. A couple of times, between goofing around, I did try to impress upon Jack what a hero he is. But he was having none of it. He just wanted to run wild and play games and make funny noises and talk about big deer and about how disgusting girls are. He just wanted to be a 7-year-old boy.

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Clockwise from middle-left: Robert Colson, Jack’s dad Andy, Jack, and Riley Colson, who took this fine Nebraska buck.

And that’s as it should be. No one so young should have to be a hero. And that’s why I encourage all of you to visit the Team Jack Foundation website, to learn more about pediatric brain cancer and donate if you can–to help researchers find a cure, so that one day soon Jack and so many other youngsters like him can put off being heroes for now and just enjoy being healthy, happy kids.