Steven M. Sipple: 'Jack Hoffman movement' spawns new race

2013-06-25T23:50:00Z 2014-07-16T12:52:20Z Steven M. Sipple: 'Jack Hoffman movement' spawns new raceBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Things I know and think I know:

Keith Zimmer has a vision.

The Nebraska associate athletic director envisions an annual national event, originating in Lincoln, that raises research money and creates awareness for pediatric brain cancer.

He ultimately hopes for something along the lines of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Series, which has grown from a 1983 event with 800 participants in Dallas to a global series of 140 races involving 1.7 million people united against breast cancer.

To be sure, Zimmer and company have big plans for the Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race, presented by the Lincoln Track Club, on July 21.

"We're just hoping this will take off," Zimmer said. "It's got to start somewhere."

Nebraska makes perfect sense as a launch point. The Jack Hoffman movement is a powerful force that began in the NU football complex and spread nationally.

As of Monday, about 100 people had signed up for the Uplifting Athletes Road Race, Zimmer said. He is hoping for 750 to 1,000 runners for the inaugural event. I could see this thing catching fire quickly.

"When Nebraskans, and people here in Lincoln, are called to action, typically they help," Zimmer said. "This wouldn't be just helping Jack Hoffman; it would be helping thousands of kids who are afflicted with brain cancer."

Uplifting Athletes is a recognized student organization that started at NU about a year and a half ago. At its peak last season, the Huskers had about 50 members. When Rex Burkhead was named the 2012 recipient of the national Rare Disease Champion Award, it further galvanized his teammates to get organized in the fight against pediatric brain cancer, Zimmer said.

He said there are about 20 Uplifting Athletes chapters nationally, with each choosing a rare disease to battle. Sam Burtch, a sophomore walk-on wide receiver from Murdock, is president of Nebraska's chapter.

"It took my son getting sick for me to get committed to raising money and awareness for pediatric brain cancer," said Andy Hoffman, Jack's father. "These kids are just doing this because it's part of their fabric, it's part of the program they're part of.

"People get sick of listening to me talk about how awesome Nebraska football is … I don't care."

With several university guidelines regarding fundraising, Uplifting Athletes is essentially limited to only one such event, Zimmer said.

Nebraska players will provide manpower to help operate the races — a 1-mile "fun run" and a 5K. To put on a major fundraiser, the players needed the proven expertise of the Lincoln Track Club, a nonprofit partner in the venture.

Jack Hoffman and his family will be on hand.

"Really, it's coach (Bo) Pelini, it's Keith Zimmer, it's Rex, it's Uplifting Athletes, it's so many people helping," Andy Hoffman said. "That's what so beautiful about the Team Jack movement, is there are so many pieces. It's sort of a statewide movement."

Zimmer hopes it goes global.

"Can we ever get to that point? Who knows," Zimmer said. "But I think this could become a grand event."

* Harrison Phillips fired me a text message at 10:40 p.m. Monday.

Short and sweet.

Very sweet for Phillips.

"Nebraska just offered."

I have to admit, I was a bit surprised. Nebraska is stocked with young defensive linemen. But Phillips, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior at Millard West, could play offense. Bo Pelini told him center is a possibility.

Many Nebraska fans bow up when dear ol' NU lets an in-state player slip off to another program. Pelini obviously isn't the type to cave to public sentiment. But he had to notice Phillips had offers from the Pac-12 champion (Stanford) and the Big 12 champ (Kansas State), among others.

Phillips has some thinking to do. It doesn't sound like a decision is imminent. But stay tuned.

* Nebraska senior center Cole Pensick says alternate uniforms give players "a little extra pep in their step" on gameday.

Hey, it's about the players. It's about marketing. It's about money. Nothing really wrong with any of that. And let's face it, the Nebraska alternate uniforms unveiled Tuesday stay well within the limits of good taste — unlike the comic-book alternates of last September.

But yeah, the curmudgeons among us (guilty!) wonder when black became a school color.

I know, lighten up.

* Would love to visit Santa Clara, Calif., for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Would really love to experience Nashville (Music City Bowl), but not if I'm covering a head-coaching search at the same time.

* Too much discussion during the College World Series about lack of home runs, and not enough about the beauty of great pitching and defense. Go Bruins.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.


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