WASHINGTON — It was obvious to everyone that young Jack Hoffman's inspirational 69-yard touchdown run in the Husker spring game had gone viral, with nearly 8 million views of the YouTube video as of late Monday.
What we didn't know was that at least one of those viewers was the leader of the free world. The 7-year-old brain cancer patient from Atkinson, Neb., met with President Barack Obama on Monday in the Oval Office.
“He told me that that was a nice run that I did,” Jack told The World-Herald after the meeting.
Obama asked Jack about the now-famous play before more than 60,000 screaming Big Red fans at Memorial Stadium.
“I told him that it was awesome,” Jack said.
For Jack and his family, Monday's White House visit was a priceless opportunity from a high-profile platform to spread their message about the importance of brain cancer research and treatment.
Jack was joined by his parents, Andy and Brianna, and his sisters Ava and Reese, as well as former Nebraska football star Rex Burkhead, just drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jack became friends with Burkhead in 2011. That relationship spawned the "Team Jack" campaign to raise awareness of pediatric brain cancer, Jack's helping to lead the team's traditional Tunnel Walk before last September's game against Wisconsin and the spring game run on April 6.
Monday's White House visit was set in motion shortly after Jack blew up as a YouTube sensation.
Obama hosted a dinner at the White House for about a dozen Senate Republicans, including Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, a longtime friend of the Hoffmans. Fischer handed Obama a news clipping about Jack, and Obama said he had already seen the remarkable run.
The two agreed that Jack could use a visit to the Oval Office. Fischer told Jack's family that Obama was expecting their call.
Andy Hoffman, Jack's father, said the president greeted his son at the Oval Office door Monday as if he'd known him for years.
“Hey, what's up, Jack?” the president said.
During the 15-minute meeting, they thanked the president for his help in raising awareness about the disease. Obama talked about new scientific research on the brain.
Jack said he was impressed with all the statues at the White House, particularly one of Abraham Lincoln. Obama gave him an official White House football with a presidential autograph, White House M&Ms and a photo of the first family's dog, Bo.
It was a heady experience made all the more significant because of the family's feeling that Obama had a genuine connection to the issue.
“It was especially meaningful because we felt like the president listened,” Andy Hoffman said.
And the White House angle means their message will be spread to an even wider audience, he said.
“People can't talk about this visit without saying three little words: pediatric brain cancer,” he said.
“That's the significance of today. That's what we're so excited about.”
Andy Hoffman said they appreciated Fischer's help in arranging the visit.
“Brain cancer is a bipartisan issue,” he said. “It doesn't matter what party you are. We want all hands on deck.”
Last week, the U.S. Senate honored Jack in a resolution designating Sept. 26, 2013, as “National Pediatric Brain Cancer Awareness Day." Upper Deck also created a trading card to immortalize Jack's spring game run.
Andy Hoffman said he was having trouble summoning words to describe the trip to Washington — surreal and whirlwind came to mind.
Jack put it simply.
“It was awesome.”