For almost three years now, Andrew Oyston has been bullied and taunted over his weight.
The 9-year-old Huntley boy has been targeted at the school and on the bus. Eventually, the verbal abuse got so bad that his grades slipped dramatically and the constant badgering became too much for him to handle.
Until recently, Andrew's father, Frank, had done what he could. He told his son to tell teachers when it happened, hoping the problem would eventually come to an end. When it didn't, though, Frank Oyston tried one more measure.
He sent a message to Bears' Pro Bowl offensive guard Kyle Long's Twitter feed, asking if there was anything the 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman could do. All he was looking for was a pep talk from an NFL star just encouraging Andrew to keep his head up.
He never expected anything to happen. After all, Long has 77,000 followers on Twitter.
"I didn't think it was possible at all," Oyston said on Sunday. "It was just a shot in the dark."
Just 45 seconds later, Long – who often enters conversations with his social media followers, responded.
"I'll ride the bus w him," Long tweeted.
Oyston was stunned. Here was a Bears player he had never met telling him that he would be willing to come to Huntley and accompany Andrew to Leggee Elementary, where the youngster is a fourth grader. But Long also didn't want to overstep his bounds. So instead, he agreed to come to the Oyston's house, where he could spend time with Andrew.
It turned into a party.
On Saturday, Long showed up at Andrew's sister's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese in Crystal Lake, spending the next fours playing games and talking with Andrew. Later, Long returned to Oyston's home, where he tossed a football around the yard, signed autographs and posed for photos.
"I didn't think any of this would happen," Oyston said. "But (Saturday) was amazing. My son just thought it was the greatest thing ever. He was totally shocked."
After making initial contact with Long, Oyston told Andrew that he was working on setting up a day that he and Long could spend together. Andrew didn't believe it. But after a few days, the news sank in and Andrew started to study up on Long. He memorized how tall he was and how much he weighed, where he went to school and was position he plays for the Bears.
Then Saturday happened.
"It was good. We played games and stuff," Andrew said. "We were just talking. He was cool."
Long, who had been in contact with Andrew's father for several weeks on Twitter, posted photos of his day with Andrew on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. One photo shows the two new buddies together with Long's tweet, "Stackin' tickets with my man Andrew."
When Long received a phone call from Bears running back Matt Forte, he handed the phone to Andrew.
The experience, the one-on-one time with an NFL hero and the back yard game of catch all became one Andrew – or the rest of his family – will remember for years to come.
"It was very, very cool," Oyston said. "My kids really, really loved it and I think they'll be his fans forever."