Christian Osterhout lost his father to ALS when he was a freshman in high school -- a traumatic event that prompted his football coach, Chris Roberts, to tell the mourning teenager to consider the team his family.
And he meant every word of it.
So much so, that three years later, following the death of his mom, Osterhout moved in with Roberts and his family.
"I was on a trip and got a call from my mom that my dad had died,” Osterhout told OKC Friday, recalling the loss of his dad several years ago. “Coach Roberts was at the funeral. He said ‘the team is your family now.’ That meant a lot to me.”
"With my family situation and caring for my parents, [the Roberts house] would be a place I could escape to," he added. "Before my mother died, I asked Coach Roberts if I could live with them so I could finish high school. He said, ‘of course,’ and we worked it all out."
Osterhout and his sister, left, smile with Chris Roberts, his wife, Sarah, and their four children, right.
With the blessing of Osterhout's mother, who had an autoimmune disease, Roberts and his wife, Sarah, assumed legal guardianship of the teenager, now a senior at Oklahoma City's Crossings Christian School, in September.
Shortly thereafter, Roberts read a letter to Osterhout in front of the football team, continuing a school tradition that one player's father read a letter to his son before every home game, reports NBC'S "Today." It read:
Who would ever have thought, when we started this program, that you'd be sitting here as a senior, living in my house. In that time, I've learned more from you, and how you have handled your struggles, than I could have ever taught you. Many people tell Sarah and I what a blessing my family and I have been for you. I know they mean well, but they've all got it wrong. The true blessing is what you've been to me and our family. I consider you one of my sons. I'm proud of you and I love you.
In addition to the "Today Show," the family's remarkable story caught the attention of the NFL, earning them a spot as finalists in the league's "Together We Make Football" contest. Should they win an Internet vote that ends Jan. 4, the family will be treated to a free trip to the Super Bowl in February.