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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A sporting cause: Burkhead returns to hometown to host three-sport fundraiser




Nearly a decade removed from a banner high school at Plano Senior, alum Rex Burkhead, right, has balanced his time in the NFL with helping combat pediatric brain cancer as part of the Team Jack Foundation. On Saturday, Burkhead returns to his hometown to host the Team Jack Trifecta, a three-sport fundraiser.

By Matt Welch
March 30, 2017

The past six months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead.

In addition to juggling the rigors and responsibilities of his fourth year in the NFL, it was around early fall when Burkhead began putting the wheels in motion for an endeavor he had been eying for some time: a fundraiser in his hometown of Plano.

On Saturday, that vision will become a reality as Burkhead returns to his alma mater to host the inaugural Team Jack Trifecta, a three-sport fundraiser benefiting pediatric brain cancer research.

“I’m excited. I’m a little nervous, just hoping everything goes smoothly and according to plan, but I’m excited that it’s almost here,” Burkhead said. “I can’t wait to see the turnout and hopefully it’s something a lot of people will enjoy and take part in.”

Over the years, Burkhead has emerged as a cornerstone in raising awareness for pediatric brain cancer after befriending 11-year-old Jack Hoffman, who was diagnosed with the disease at age 5 in 2011. Since, Burkhead helped launch the Team Jack Foundation, which is dedicated to raising money for research on children’s cancers – an endeavor that has garnered almost $4 million toward the cause.

“Jack’s dad and I have talked about how we never could have thought that this would grow into what it’s become today,” Burkhead said. “It’s been unbelievable to be part of and to see how many people have jumped on board.”

Although the organization’s fundraisers have largely been confined to Nebraska – where Hoffman lives and Burkhead played college football – the former Wildcat is anxious to expand the organization’s scope to his home state. That endeavor begins Saturday with the Team Jack Trifecta, which will feature a 5K fun run, a youth football camp and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

“I’ve wanted to do something in Plano for a while and didn’t know what it would be,” Burkhead said. “At first, I was thinking of doing a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, but wanted something that would appeal to all ages, so I then decided on a 5K. Then football came in there as well, so we decided we might as well call it a trifecta.”

The festivities begin at 8 a.m. Saturday with a fun run around the Plano Senior High School campus. Online registration ($35 for adults, $15 for children 10 and under) for that event is open through 11:59 p.m. tonight, and individuals can still register on-site on Saturday.

“The 5K hits all people and all age groups,” Burkhead said. “You don’t have to be a professional runner either. You can even bring your kid out and push them in a stroller.”

From 10 a.m.-noon, Burkhead will take to the gridiron to help coach his first youth football camp. There, he will be joined by several NFL veterans, including Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah, Allen alum and Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi and eight-year NFL vet Craig Dahl, as well as former high school teammates and Plano alums Carson Meger and Kris Lott.

The event is open to kids ages six through 14 and costs $50.

Naturally, Burkhead plans to be active coaching kids at the camp’s running back station.

“I’ve been a part of some (camps) with other people, but this is the first one I’ve actually held,” Burkhead said. “I’m excited and we’ve got a great group of guys coming out for it.”

The trifecta rounds out at 1 p.m. with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, open to players who are out of high school or college. The registration fee is $100 per four-person team and the tournament holds a maximum of 24 teams.

All proceeds from the event will support pediatric brain cancer research.

“We’ve got a lot of people who want to be involved and will be out there participating,” Burkhead said. “It’s neat seeing a bunch of my high school friends and their families getting involved in whatever way they can. We’re expecting a pretty good turnout, so I’m excited.

“We’re getting more and more numbers everyday, especially this week as we get closer, so I can’t wait to see what it’s going to look like on Saturday.”

To register for any of the three events at the Team Jack Trifecta, go to teamjackfoundation.org/plano.

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