Less than a month after his touchdown run in Nebraska’s spring game catapulted him onto the national scene, 7-year old Jack Hoffman visited the White House on Monday to meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Accompanying Jack and his family on the trip was the person Jack has called his best friend, former Nebraska running back and Bengals sixth-round draft pick Rex Burkhead.

Said Burkhead of the visit: “Jack had a blast and great to be with the family and to invite me along with them. To see Jack interact with President Obama with eyes wide open was awesome.”

What was supposed to be a short meet-and-greet between Jack, from Atkinson, Neb., and his favorite football player 19 months ago has evolved into something much more. Many in Nebraska have known about Jack’s story, but the run in the spring game raised awareness and funds for pediatric brain cancer research.

One person who was surprised by the effect Burkhead has had on Jack’s life is Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, whose players do a lot in the community. But what Burkhead has done goes above and beyond.

“There is such a depth to Rex that there aren’t a lot of kids out there like him,” Pelini said. “He made it his own quest to help change this kid’s life. In this day and age there aren’t a lot of guys who would go to the extent that Rex did. You’re not going to meet a better human being than Rex Burkhead.”
Not a one-time deal

Even before he met Jack, Burkhead knew that he wanted to be there for him. They met for the first time on Sept. 15, 2011, after Hoffman’s dad, Andy, contacted the Nebraska athletic department, hoping to get a picture of Jack with Burkhead, Jack’s favorite player.

Jack started to like Burkhead because his dad and uncles liked him, too.

“He was a hard-nosed, blue-collar player,” Andy Hoffman said of Burkhead. “Call it osmosis, but I guess it reached the point where Jack decided that’s my guy, too.”

Instead of just a photo, Burkhead went out to lunch with the family, showed them around Memorial Stadium and challenged Jack to a race on the field. Jack gave Burkhead a red wristband that ready “Team Jack Pray.”