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On Sunday, a day after Jack Hoffman led an alcohol and drug-free pledge for youth inside Memorial Stadium, ABC World News Tonight shared an update on Jack, the pediatric brain cancer patient who the network dubbed The Comeback Kid for the way he leads, motivates and bounces back from the disease he fights every day. Count Cory Demmel, a 33-year-old youth pastor in Bellevue, Neb., as a proud parent who cherishes Jack’s new role in Nebraska – a vibrant, valiant champion of living life without alcohol or drugs. “I think it’s really good that we’re encouraging kids and adults to be drug and alcohol-free,” Demmel said. “It’s an ongoing problem. I know how hard it is. I’ve been working with teenagers since I was in college. Alcohol and drugs represent one of the biggest problems any state faces.”
With leaders like Demmel, who has his own incredible story to share, and Jack, who is stepping up to the plate to support another important cause, there is hope. “My dad (Brian) was in the State Penitentiary for drugs and alcohol when he was 18 years old,” Cory told me in the North end zone while holding his 3-year-old daughter, Madison, during Saturday’s back-to-back youth/adult pledges. His dad, also a pastor in Omaha, “completely turned his life around,” Demmel said, “so I grew up as a kid listening to him talk about drugs and alcohol. He should have died from drunk driving. Listening to his travels and experiences, I learned about the bad side of drugs and alcohol. When he met my mom, he changed, so I did not grow up in an alcoholic family. Fortunately, faith saved us. That’s our legacy as a family, and we do everything we can to help others.”
Demmel works with the Sheriff’s Department in Sarpy County and commits to and leads pledges to support D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). “We reach out and do community work and see the challenges our youth are facing,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure with drugs and alcohol, and the ones who have a care group and a positive network have a lot better chance to succeed than the ones who don’t. I’ve been a huge Husker fan since I was a child and hope that someday I’ll get to see my daughter helping my grandkids take a similar alcohol and drug-free pledge. We’ve pushed a lot of positive into a tough battle. I don’t drink. I’ve never done drugs, and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out or regret anything.”
Prince Amukamara, left, and Roy Helu Jr. share personal views at Boys Town.
NFL Players Willing to Share Their Views
Cory Demmel also has connected with former Husker All-American Roy Helu Jr., and the Washington Redskins’ running back has shared a variety of his experiences in Omaha. “Roy talked about being a man of principle and a man of faith in the spotlight,” Cory said. “He talked about how he found God in college and how that really turned his life around. I wanted to put an icon and a hero in front of my students, and Roy promoted the principles that we feel are helpful for kids to become successful in life.”
in his fourth year with the New York Giants, Prince Amukamara understands why Demmel connected with Helu Jr., one of his closest friends. On Memorial Stadium’s East sideline Saturday, Prince was waiting for a chance of his own to motivate fathers and their boys about true manhood. Almost immediately after the Spring Game, Amukamara and Helu Jr. joined Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown and former Husker football captain Stan Parker in a Q&A session at Haymarket Park. Both leaders in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Brown and Parker asked the questions, and two Huskers still in the NFL, answered them. The goal was to share their views with honesty, love and hope.
“When we share our faith, we’re not passive,” Amukumara told me during the game. “Three topics I want to cover are pornography, being a newlywed and money. Roy has been a role model for me. I love his openness and his maturity. He’s truly been a brother in Christ for me and has really helped me in the way I look at life.” Helu Jr. and Amukamara share a desire to help free kids from inaccurate conventional thinking. Both believe that young men, armed with the right values, can meet any challenge they face.