By Doug Halberstadt
Have you ever wondered what professional football players do during the off season? If you’re anything like me, you assume they’re out spending some of their millions at a variety of exotic vacation spots around the globe.
Some may be doing just that, but I recently read two stories about Chicago Bears players, Kyle Long and Nate Collins. Instead of scuba diving in Bora Bora, or deep sea fishing off the coast of Tasmania, these guys were quietly going about the business of being exceptional citizens and role models for other players around the league.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a story about Bears Pro Bowl guard Long reaching out to lend his support to a 9-year old boy from Huntley, Ill., who was the victim of bullying at his school. Andrew Oyston endured a barrage of negative comments about his weight on the bus and in the classroom for the last couple of years.
Long was made aware of the situation via Oyston’s father, Frank. He reached out to Long via social media. Long responded affirmatively and initially offered to ride the bus with the young Oyston.
When that proved impractical, Long accepted an offer to hang out with the family during a recent weekend birthday celebration for Andrew’s sister. He showed up to a Chuck E. Cheese’s in Crystal Lake, Ill., and then went back to the Oyston’s home for cake and to toss a football around in the family’s backyard.
“As somebody that didn’t have the best elementary and middle school experience, I can relate a lot to what Andrew is going through. I didn’t know his specific situation, but the riding of the bus deal was kind of tough for me as well.” Long explained. “He just needed somebody to hang out with and have a strong male presence, like an older brother-type deal. If that’s the role that needs to be played, I have no problem with that. He’s a really great kid.” It’s always fun to have a little brother.”
Long stated he intends to stay in touch with Andrew.
This past Friday (May 9) Long’s teammate, Nate Collins, accompanied Nadia Marotti to the Prairie View Elementary Father-Daughter dance in Crystal Lake. The big defensive tackle skipped a Bears draft party at Soldier Field Friday night to attend the dance with the young girl who lost her father to brain cancer two years ago.
He arrived at the house in a black limousine and picked up his date for the evening. Prior to leaving for the school Collins declared, “I know how much fun Nadia is going to have tonight and how much it means to this family.” He also added, “I’m a pretty good dancer.”
These are two examples of what I hope are dozens or hundreds of stories like this that go unreported about professional athletes. I happened to catch these two and felt they needed to be shared.