“Andy was our fearless leader who loved his family with all his heart,” the foundation announced on Facebook. “His tenacity for fighting childhood brain cancer is how he met every challenge including his own fight with brain cancer. Andy Hoffman, we love you and will miss you, and we promise to honor your legacy by fighting harder than ever for kids with brain cancer.”
The Atkinson, Neb., family gained national attention in 2013 when Jack, then a 7-year-old who had been battling brain cancer for two years, was invited to the Nebraska spring game. He was brought onto the field for a play, received the handoff and, accompanied by the cheering players, ran 69 yards for a touchdown. Video of the play was voted best sports moment at that year’s ESPY awards and has been watched millions of times.
“The run touched us. The cause united us. The fight inspired us,” the Nebraska athletic department tweeted Monday. “We are heartbroken to lose Andy and send all our love to the Hoffman family.”
Rex Burkhead, the former Nebraska running back who struck up a friendship with Jack that led to the invitation to the spring game, paid tribute to Andy Hoffman on Instagram, calling him “a wonderful husband, father, friend, and unreal leader of pediatric brain cancer awareness.” Burkhead added: “It was a blessing to see Andy’s attitude to make sure his family lived life to fullest [through] the amount of energy and love he poured into them. He was a man of his word and if there was something he wanted to do, he was going to do it. I’m gonna miss you a lot, man.”
Spencer Long, a former Nebraska lineman who retired from the NFL last year, called Andy Hoffman “such an exemplary person” in comments to the Lincoln Journal Star. “Showing other people how to act and how to handle themselves through adversity and pain, and how to love fully and deeply for his family, for others and continue to be such a bright light through even the darkest of times.”
Jack Hoffman, 15, continues to receive treatment for a cancerous glioma, a pediatric brain tumor. He has also played football for West Holt High.
“The treatment has just become part of my day and is kind of a habit now and just something I know I need to do daily, so I just do it,” Jack said last fall in an email. “Luckily, the treatment that I’m on doesn’t cause any side effects on my body.”
As Andy Hoffman’s treatment continued at the Mayo Clinic, the cancer spread to his spine. Last month, he had a bout with covid-19 as his condition worsened, a result that “put our world in a tailspin,” his wife, Brianna, wrote on Facebook. Andy Hoffman recovered after a monoclonal antibody infusion, but on Feb. 8 the family learned the cancer had progressed, with “many new and increased sites.”
“This is such a horrible disease,” Brianna wrote. “Even though Andy’s diagnosis was seven months ago, we are still in denial that this is happening. We are, however, grateful for the past seven months as we are thankful for each day that God gives us together here on earth, and for how he has used Andy to advocate for children with this very disease. Andy remains our intelligent, hard-working, extroverted, kind, fun-loving, goal-setting, and the ‘best at advocating’ husband/dad we could ever ask for! Thank you to everyone that continues to pray for Andy and our family, bring food, transport us to Mayo, drive by and honk, help with our kids, send cards and gifts … the list goes on and on. We are so grateful for our family and friends, who are always there for us.”
In addition to his wife and Jack, Hoffman is survived by daughters Ava and Reese. Last year, Hoffman published a book about his son’s cancer, calling it “Yards After Contact” and designating proceeds for research.
“I’m hoping this can be my final dig at brain cancer,” Hoffman told the Omaha World-Herald last fall. “Research is how we’re going to beat this disease. When I think about kids going through this, it breaks my heart.”
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