“Stackin tickets with my man Andrew.”
That’s how Kyle Long’s tweet read Saturday. It was accompanied by a photo of Long and Huntley 9-year-old Andrew Oyston playing games at Chuck E. Cheese in Crystal Lake.
Long, an offensive lineman, was the Chicago Bears’ first-round draft choice in 2013. Oyston, a fourth-grader at Leggee Elementary, has been the victim of bullying for the past three years. The two make an unlikely duo, given Long’s fame as a NFL player and Oyston’s obscurity as a suburban 9-year-old.
Andrew’s father, Frank, had sent a tweet to Long since the bullying of Andrew persisted, asking if there was anything he could do to cheer up Andrew – a pep talk, perhaps. Long tweeted back that he’d ride the bus with him to school.
The bus ride turned into a visit to Andrew’s house. The visit to Andrew’s house turned into Long showing up at Andrew’s sister’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. He spent four hours playing games and talking with Andrew. Long then returned to Oyston’s home, where he tossed around a football, signed autographs and posed for photos.
Many kids look at professional athletes – rightly or wrongly – as role models. Few athletes rise to the level of such consideration. It appears Long, who is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, rises to such a level.
Here is a professional athlete who took the time – unpaid – to drive out to McHenry County to cheer up a kid who has been bullied over his weight. He did so without seeking publicity.
There are other examples of professional athletes doing similar things. Long is the latest example of an athlete who uses his fame to help others. The events of Saturday will never be forgotten by the Oyston family – or by Long.
“I didn’t think any of this would happen,” Frank Oyston said. “But (Saturday) was amazing. My son just thought it was the greatest thing ever. He was totally shocked.”
All made possible by a stand-up person, who also happens to be a professional athlete using his fame in positive ways.