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Jayhawks in NFL share their support for #TeamCole

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Cole Hayden attends a Kansas football home game in 2015, before being diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma.

Cole Hayden attends a Kansas football home game in 2015, before being diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma.

As young Kansas football fan Cole Hayden continues his fight against undifferentiated sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, his cheering section continues to grow.

Over the past couple of days, Cole’s mother, Shanda Hayden, shared video messages sent the youngster’s way courtesy of some of the most recognizable Jayhawks in the NFL.

Shanda, the KU football team’s academic and career advisor who has worked with the program for nearly a decade, is beloved by current and former players alike. Many around the team consider her a bit of a team mom. In turn, Cole has become a popular member of the Jayhawks’ family.

KU players and coaches have rallied around the determined boy, wearing #TeamCole bracelets and doing everything they can to support him and the Hayden family.

Now former players are letting Cole know they have his back, too. Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald reached out via video this weekend to the Haydens.

“I’m definitely pullin' for ya down here in Tampa,” McDougald said.

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Monday morning, Shanda shared another video message, this one from the top two Kansas players in the NFL, Denver Broncos cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.

“Cole, man, stay strong,” Harris said. “We’re prayin’ for your family, prayin' for Miss Shanda. Just hope everything goes well.”

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Second-year Kansas football coach David Beaty often mentioned Cole’s fight and the Hayden’s throughout the season, dating back to KU dedicating its opener to #TeamCole.

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“Man, that dude is a tough dude,” Beaty recently said of Cole. “He's fighting, and just want to let Shanda know how thankful we and our players are for her. I don't think people know how much she does for these guys, and I know not just the guys we have here but the ones that have came before them. Man, a lot of those kids have degrees because of her. She wears so many hats for us, and not the least of which is what she does for them academically. She's like a second mom for them while she's here.”

With Cole’s battle often keeping Shanda away from the team of late, a number of Jayhawks went to visit the Haydens after their season ended to check in and help out with some holiday decorations.

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Sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. recently said the Jayhawks used FaceTime at one of their final practices to check in with Shanda, and players regularly get updates on Cole’s progress through Beaty.

“She’s a strong woman,” Sims said of Shanda Hayden, “and we’re fightin' for her, and she’s gonna keep fightin' for us.”

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