The Fort Hays State University football team gathered Tuesday to offer encouragement and support to Sophia Linenberger, a Hays teenager who has cancer.


Tiger football coach Chris Brown organized the send-off at noon Tuesday in front of Lewis Field before Linenberger headed to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., for chemotherapy.


Seated in the passenger seat of her family’s van as it slowly drove past, Linenberger waved back at FHSU players who were cheering for her, with some displaying signs with such phrases as "Sophia Strong" and "FHSU football is here for U." The signs were given to Linenberger.


Brown and Tigers quarterback Chance Fuller spoke with Linenberger and offered words of encouragement.


"Stay strong," Brown told Linenberger, who is a junior at TMP-Marian High School.


In January 2019, Linenberger was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in the bones or soft tissue surrounding the bone. She was in remission last November but it was discovered at her nine-month checkup that she had relapsed and would need more chemotherapy.


Sophia’s mother, Jenny Linenberger, said Brown and the Tiger football team have supported Sophia since her diagnosis. She thanked Brown and the Tigers for putting together Tuesday’s send-off.


After the send-off at FHSU, the Linenbergers were informed of another send-off for Sophia on Tuesday afternoon. Arranged by TMP math teacher and softball coach Melissa Schoepf, this send-off was held at TMP’s Victory Lane and saw Sophia’s classmates offer their well wishes and support.