All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In the "Carriker Chronicles" video series, he breaks down the latest NU news, upcoming opponents, player updates and recruiting information, and he offers his insight into the X's and O's and more.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to Andy Hoffman about the decision for his son, Jack Hoffman, to play football, pediatric brain cancer, Team Jack and more.
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Here's a transcript of today's show:
Adam Carriker: Welcome to the Carriker Chronicles, The People’s Show, where we check the pulse of Husker Nation. Brought to you by Nebraska Spine Hospital. Today, I am joined ... many of you probably saw the picture of Jack Hoffman last week, enjoying his first middle school football game. I am joined today, by Jack’s father, one of the leaders of Team Jack, Mr. Andy Hoffman. How are you doing today, sir?
Andy Hoffman: Doing great, thanks for having me on.
Adam Carriker: I want to thank you for joining me, and I have more than a few questions for you, but I want to start off with, what was Jack’s first tackle football game like? What was it like for him, and what was it like for you guys to be able to enjoy that?
Andy Hoffman: I remember before the game, he was nervous. I don’t want to say scared, but he was that sick/ nervous that we all get before playing football. So, pretty typical. It was just an eight grade boy getting ready to play junior high football. He had the pregame jitters, but as the game got going and he got into a rhythm, he really enjoyed it. He loves football, he loves everything about football, so he really enjoyed it. For me and his mom, we just kind of figuratively speaking, pinched ourselves the whole time. You know, here’s a kid who’s had a couple brain surgeries, on his third round of chemo… really, but for the Grace of God, shouldn’t be out there. So we’re just really relieved and overwhelmed with gratitude that he’s in that position. Of course, every parent is nervous when their kid is on the football field, but we had an added layer just because he is epileptic and can have seizures. So we were watching the game looking for different signs. It’s not an everyday kind of thing, or even an every week kind of thing, so we know it’s there, you just can’t let it control you.
Adam Carriker: So obviously, with everything he’s been through, the doctors cleared him to play tackle football. What’s his up to date status? We haven’t heard a lot about Jack lately, it’s been kind of quiet. Is he still battling cancer, where’s he at, and what was the process like leading up to the doctor saying he could play tackle football if he wanted to?
Andy Hoffman: As far as medically where he’s at, he’s been through two rounds of chemo therapy. Early summer of 2018 his tumor progressed. We opted to enroll him into a third round of chemo therapy. It’s a targeted drug therapy, clinical trial through the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in July, 2018. He just passed the one year mark of being treated with that drug. So far his tumor has been responding to the drug. He had an MRI the Sunday after Labor Day. It was a stable scan, and that’s good. With a brain tumor, a stable scan is a victory. He’ll have another MRI in December. From an oncological standpoint, he’s just living life the way he’s lived it since his diagnosis. One MRI at a time. We’ve had more good MRI’s than bad MRI’s, so we’ll take it.
Jack is doing good. He’s got this clinical trial, and you know, who knows what the future will hold for Jack? None of us know. We’re just focused on today and living each day to the best of our ability. Jack is no different. As far as the decision to play football, that wasn’t easy. We’re all keenly aware of the concussion issue with football. All parents are. Combine that with the fact that he’s had a couple brain tumor surgeries, and combine that with the fact that he does have epilepsy which can lead to seizures, it was a difficult decision. Initially, we just wrote it off and said he’s never going to play football. We looked at golf, Jack likes to golf, and there’s a lot of other sports you can do. Basketball, baseball… football was never really in the running. But, as things progressed for Jack, he spent all summer in the weight room, and he just really wanted to play football. He comes from a football family. The last thing I was going to do as his father, was push this agenda. Not at all.
In fact, I might have been trying to steer him away from it, but he wanted to play, and we talked to the doctors and the neurologists, the neuro oncologists, the brain science people… there wasn’t a single one of them that are excited about football. In Jack’s situation, they for sure weren’t excited. In the end, they said he can play, here’s all the risks, and it’s a parent decision. So mom and I sat down about the time we had to decide whether to buy football cleats. We talked to Jack, and said, you want to play, that’s great, here’s the risks. We laid them all out there for him. He is a smart kid, a straight A student. We let it be his decision and we weren’t going to steer him away from it.
Adam Carriker: It’s kind of a fine line, his decision takes that fine line to another level. Parents want to protect their kids, but they also want them to experience things. Tackle football, nobody in neuro science is particularly excited about it. So, it’s a very fine line. I gotta ask, being the former football player that I am, what positions does he play? And what was it like for him? He had that unique experience years ago during the spring game, so what was this like for him playing in a live football game?
Andy Hoffman: He played center on offense, he’s a big kid. Probably 170lbs. He shot up this summer, so he’s one of the biggest kids on the team. Offensive line is kind of a genetic thing. His dad, his uncles, we were all offensive linemen in high school. Genetics are hard to overcome. On defense, he plays on the line. His peers are excellent. That’s one of the things that enables Jack to play, and kind of ameliorates some of the concerns that mom and I have. He’s surrounded by teammates that have grown up with him. They’ve seen him play baseball, they’ve been with him on the basketball court, they’ve run track and field with him. He’ll have seizures during athletic events. His teammates know what to look for, know the signs, and they’ll have his back. That brings comfort to mom and I, just to know that if there’s something going on in the huddle, they’re going to have his back. As far as the experience, he’s really excited, he’s got a game tonight, he’s pumped. He is exactly what you want to see as a 13 year old boy, going on 14, playing junior high football. He’s right where you want to be. We just thank God he can play.
Adam Carriker: First of all, there’s nothing wrong with playing D Line, that’s a perfectly fine position to play. Secondly, I gotta ask, cause shotgun snaps have been a thing of controversy with the Huskers this year. Do they do shotgun snaps with his team, are they under center, how does his team handle snapping the ball?
Andy Hoffman: He has the offensive line nomenclature. They’re in the pistol. It’s not the shotgun anymore, Adam, it’s the pistol. He had a high snap the last game, but I was watching and judging and gonna coach him up. For preseason, I was pretty proud. It’s a big responsibility, you know, after the play’s over, getting back to the huddle, getting your teammates back there. It’s a role that he relishes. He likes the line, he likes mixing it up inside. He’s not in a bubble. We know he’s gonna get hit, we know he’s gonna give hits. That’s just football. Either you’re out there and you’re playing, or you’re not out there. Jack’s made a decision, we’ve made a decision, we pray it’s the right decision. We think it is, because you’re only 14 once.
Adam Carriker: Well, you tell him, as you get older, the difficulty with the positions will change. At his age, the center is the most difficult position. You gotta remember the snap count, you gotta get the snap down, oh by the way, now ya gotta block. Which everybody else has to do as well. All due respect to anyone, and Jack as well, playing center in junior high, high school, even older as well. Nebraska fans are finding out that center is not an easy position to play. Especially when you have the shotgun snaps included. Now, we visited a little the other day, do you have a message that you would like to send out to other parents and kids who are in similar situations? Maybe not just cancer but health situations and other issues as well.
Andy Hoffman: I appreciate that. The biggest thing is, don’t ever lose hope. I’ll never forget when Jack was first diagnosed. I was resigned to the fact that my son would probably never graduate from high school, go to prom, play high school sports. All those things that kids get to do. Those are all things he may not ever do. I let that consume me, all the things that he wasn’t ever going to get to do. Once you get through that initial thrust, you can’t give up on life. You gotta do things like this. I don’t care if you’re the parent, or you’re that child. I think the other thing too is, and this is something that’s really important to me. There’s a lot of enthusiasm because Jack got to suit up. I sent that tweet and it went viral. I certainly did not intend for that to happen.
I think kids like Jack that go through brain surgery, who have brain tumors… Jack shouldn’t be the exception, Jack should be the rule. Kids that have brain tumors should be able to play high school football. The reason that there’s so much enthusiasm about it, is because it’s kind of rare, to go through what Jack did, and it’s kind of an overcoming… I get that. It shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the rule. The reason it’s not the rule, is because pediatric brain cancer is still incredibly underfunded by the
federal government, by the Cancer Institute, by big pharmaceutical companies, and until that changes, things like what has happened here are going to be a big deal. But it should be the rule. Kids that go through rare diseases or pediatric cancer, I don’t care what it is, should have better survivorship opportunities than what they have. They don’t have that because we have forgotten about them as a society. To the extent that we can help, through things like the Team Jack Foundation, we’re going to keep doing that.
Adam Carriker: So people know, how can they help out with Team Jack? Where can they go, what can they do to help out with Team Jack, or other organizations like this?
Andy Hoffman: We are really excited about some of the things we are doing through the foundation. You can log on to www.teamjackfoundation.org. Something we’re really excited about, is this Thursday, the 26th, we’re going to have a statewide radiothon, sponsored by The Home Agency. It’s gonna be all the way across Nebraska. We’re gonna be on Froggy 98 and Omaha Sweet 98 all day long, trying to raise money for child brain cancer research. The foundation isn’t just about funding laboratory research. We’ve evolved that. We’re also trying to help create a state-of-the-art pediatric brain tumor program right here in Omaha, NE so that our regional kids don’t have to travel to places like Boston, or St. Jude’s to receive clinical trials, and things like that. We’re also excited about some of the research we’re funding right here in Nebraska as well. It is important, and we’re grateful for everybody’s support. If you want to tune in on the radio and sign up to be a teammate, we would absolutely be thrilled.
Adam Carriker: Alright, tune in Thursday, the 26th on the radio, check them out at www.teamjackfoundation.org, Twitter, @TeamJack Facebook, @TeamJack as well. I want to thank you for joining me, and real quick: tell Jack not to worry about those pregame jitters, because here’s something I don’t know if I’ve ever shared before. I used to always get two breakfasts before games. I would eat one, and have the garbage can ready, knowing full-well I would throw up the entire breakfast. I would clean out my mouth, brush my teeth, and eat the other breakfast. I couldn’t get over it, it became part of my routine, so tell Jack not to worry about those pregame jitters.
Andy Hoffman: I will do that, that’s great advice.
Adam Carriker: I don’t know that I would tell him to do the throw up thing, it’s just what happened and eventually, I learned, it is what it is. Again, thank you for joining me, and until next time, Husker Nation, Go Big Red, and always remember…
Andy Hoffman: To throw the bones!
Thanks again to the Nebraska Spine Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, when it’s your spine, you do not want to mess around. Experience matters. That’s why you can trust the experts at Nebraska Spine Hospital, the region's only spine specific hospital. They are the best at what they do.
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