Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City
By Sean Keeler  |  Last updated 4/26/14
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The MVP of Kansas State's 2014 spring football game nailed the handoff but missed the hint. On Friday, the family of Wildcats star defensive end Ryan Mueller called up Jenny Schroeder in McPherson, Kan., to tell the good news: "Operation: Kaiden's Play" was a go. Jenny and Chris Schroeder's son, 9-year-old Kaiden, is battling acute lympocytic leukemia (or, ALL), a form of cancer in which the white blood cells attack bone marrow and inhibit the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The routine these days involves chemo treatment in his spinal fluid, the kind of regimen that leaves Kaiden with crushing headaches and nausea, and Mom with a broken heart. At any rate, Kaiden and Mueller are buddies, and Big No. 44 had gotten the green light for Little No. 44 to not just watch the April scrimmage from the sidelines, but to actually suit up in his own K-State uniform, dress is his own locker at the Vanier Football Complex, the works. If they were going to do this, they were going to do it up right, baby. "And we just asked him 'what if' questions, to see if he would be shy (about it)," his mom recalled. Kaiden knew his pal Ryan had set him up with a sideline pass. Jenny tried to play the rest of it coy, play it cool, all while her spirit was doing triple Salchows in the breeze. "Kaiden," she asked. "What if they put you in? What if they needed help?" Kaiden pondered this. Kansas State? My Wildcats? The team he'd watched pound Michigan into queso dip down at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl a few months ago, needing his help? "Awesome," he said. "So at that point," Jenny recalled, "we knew he would do whatever they wanted him to do." == Curry Sexton caught eight balls for 88 yards (and would've had more, if a rainbow in the end zone hadn't slipped through his grasp). Quarterback Jake Waters flashed a clear rapport with wideout Deante Burton (six catches, 48 yards). Charles Jones ran for 73 yards of power with the starters, while Jarvis Leverett Jr. rambled for 69 more with the reserves. The Purple (first team) outlasted the White (second and third team) by a score of 23-13. But Kaiden was the highlight, the shining star of a shimmering April afternoon. "It was just awesome," said Mueller, the brainchild behind it all. "It's something Kaiden will remember the rest of his life. It also kind of takes things off (football, and on) what's really important. And just gives guys the opportunity to reach out to the community and lift somebody up who has kind of had a rough go." Last April, Jack Hoffman, a 7-year-old cancer survivor, took a handoff in the Nebraska spring football game, the mother of all viral video clips. Mueller said "Kaiden's Play" was neither a homage nor a Huskers rip-off -- they had planned to do the same thing with Kaiden during K-State's 2013 spring game, but the boy was too weak to participate because of treatments. Saturday? Different story. Better ending. "He showed up and I said, 'Well, let's go down to the locker room and get our minds right for the big game,'" Mueller said, grinning. "I showed him his locker ..." And there it was: Christmas in April. Mini K-State helmet. Mini K-State pants. Mini K-State pads. And a mini No. 44 purple jersey with "SCHROEDER" stictched across the back. Even a nameplate, same as the rest of the Wildcats, with his hometown printed on it, atop his very own stall. "He was speechless," Mueller would say later. "His jaw just dropped and he couldn't believe it." And this is a tough kid. The toughest. Kaiden was diagnosed with ALL when he was 4 years old, in the spring of 2009. It's the kind of cancer that typically crops up in children younger than 5, the cruelest of the cruel, a malady that starts in bone marrow, then spreads to other parts of the body -- including the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, brain and spinal cord. "You know the battles thta he has overcome and is constantly fighting," said Mueller, who first met the Schroeders in January 2013, a week after the Fiesta Bowl, while Kaiden was being treated at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City. "To spend so much time in the hospital -- being 8 years old, you know, you're spending your Christmas and your birthday parties in there. That's something none of my teammates have ever had to experience. Who wants to spend their childhood doing that?" The good days outnumber the soul-crushing ones, but the leukemia is still there. A bone-marrow transplant in February 2013 didn't quite take, and the cancer fought back last fall. Kaiden is slated to travel to Philadelphia this summer for six weeks of a trial treatment. He was 70-something pounds when Mueller brought over a pair of game-worn K-State jerseys to the hospital two winters ago. Kaiden's at roughly 81-82 pounds now. The battle rages on. Week to week, month to month. "It's rough -- he gets headaches; they make him sick," Jenny Schroeder said. "But a day later, he's better. He's bounced up." == You can't keep a good Wildcat down. In the third quarter, with the Purple team in control, Little No. 44 finally got his number called. Mueller led him out to meet the first-team offense. Waters gave him a low-five. K-State coach Bill Snyder, the living legend, brought the boy over to the sideline, put his arm around him and whispered a few words. Then, as Kaiden was getting ready to rush onto the field, Snyder -- a stickler for details to the last -- quickly grabbed the 9-year-old by the scruff of his shoulder pads and held him on the sidelines for a second until things were set. After a few seconds, the old coach let go, patted him on the back and gave him his cue.  "Kaiden's Play" was on. Little No. 44 took the handoff from Waters, veered to the right and, behind a wall of Wildcats, scampered for a 30-yard touchdown. "That's something I'll never forget," said Waters, who "guided" Kaiden on the play and escorted him into the end zone. "I know for a fact I'll never forget that moment. And you know, the look on his face -- he was so happy. So that was definitely the highlight of (Saturday)." "It was fun for him" Snyder said," and enjoyable for all our players at the same time. You love seeing things like that. You really do." You loved seeing Kaiden carried out of Bill Snyder Family Stadium on the shoulders of the Wildcats, his heroes. His teammates. His brothers. You loved seeing grandpa Steve Lolling cradling the nameplat from the locker room, carrying it like an Academy Award. Grandma Sandra Lolling, meanwhile, wondered what Snyder had whispered in Kaiden's ear, all those plays ago. "Kaiden," she asked, "what did Coach tell you?" And Kaiden pondered this, too. "I don't know," he said. "I couldn't hear him." You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Michael Bennett calls out NFL stars for not speaking up on social matters

Nationals make astute move in acquiring Melancon

Son of former NFL player Antonio Armstrong charged with death of parents

U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions

Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Wade says Riley did not push him out of Miami

Nationals among multiple teams inquiring on Mark Melancon

Texans GM 'disappointed' in DeAndre Hopkins

Can Andre Johnson end his regression in Tennessee?

Favre opens up about painkiller addiction during career

Miami women’s basketball coach criticizes Texas A&M following slideshow

Twin Cities preparing for influx of sex trafficking during Super Bowl LII

WATCH: Bautista bat flip will be available as NHL 17 celebration

Former USMNT, current MLS forward Davies battled cancer, in remission

The definitive guide to U.S. Men's Basketball at Rio 2016

Tony Romo training camp picture leads to fat jokes, concern

Matt Cullen’s family eats cereal out of the Stanley Cup

Texas A&M suspends coaches for sexist slideshow

10 most dangerous college football defenders in 2016

Wildcats News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker