How the love of a family changed the life of a young black man destined to become someone better.
We just had to re-post this article from last year to give you all something to look for possible in another young black man trying to overcome the hardships life throws at you, with all the drugs and rampant crimes happening within the NFL, it’s refreshing to know there are still some young men who have a desire to change their lives regardless of their background or upbringing!
He was two years old, maybe, he figures. They were walking alone, dangerously on the side of a highway. Just Michael Oher and his brothers. He has no idea where they were headed, or their condition when they arrived. Details are fuzzy.
But he swears it happened. Oher still sees the cars speeding by, a snippet in the back of his mind.
It is the earliest memory of his life.
“That’s all I can remember,” Oher, 22, a projected first-round NFL draft pick, said as he tore into a shrimp po’ boy last week. “We were trying to get to where we needed to be.”
The vision apparently does not haunt, badger or even slightly irritate Oher, a survivor who now tools along highways in a black Hummer. He seeks no explanation.
“It means absolutely nothing now,” he says, cheerfully.
Like so many perilous encounters from his life, it rolls more than it lingers.
Meet Michael Oher (pronounced OAR), a 6-5, 309-pound All-America tackle from the University of Mississippi who is the subject of a best-selling book —The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which is being turned into a movie — but until a few years ago was legally Michael Williams.
Among 13 siblings from the poorest part of Memphis, he never knew his father, whose murder he learned of months after the fact in high school. His mother, Denise Oher, was addicted to crack cocaine. The kids were scattered about.
Michael attended 11 schools in nine years.If not in a foster home, he lived with friends. He was homeless.
“As I look back on stuff, it’s crazy how I got here,” he says. “But it didn’t seem tough at the time. I just lived day to day, did the best I could.”
A turning point came when Tony Henderson, who allowed Michael to crash on his sofa, brought him along when he took his son Steven to enroll at Briarcrest Christian School on the other side of town. Oher ultimately was admitted as a special-needs case.
Another pivotal moment occurred during his first Thanksgiving break, when Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy spotted Oher as they drove past a bus stop near the school. It was snowing. Oher, then 16, was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts.
Sean, then a volunteer assistant basketball coach at the school who had met Oher at the gym, says Leigh Anne grabbed the wheel. Next came a U-turn.
“She cried the second she met him, and it was over,” Sean recalls.
The Tuohys took in Oher, allowing him a safety net in their home in upscale East Memphis two blocks from the school. For months he came and went as he pleased, and Leigh Anne worried when he didn’t spend the night. They hired a tutor to address severe academic deficiencies, paid his tuition and gave him a wardrobe and other essentials. Sean says the generosity was not the result of any epiphany or even as much as a family meeting.
“We think God sent him to us,” Sean says. “Earthly explanations don’t make sense.”
Book description in dispute
About a year later, Oher moved in permanently with the wealthy white family. Before Oher’s senior year in high school, the Tuohys — with daughter Collins at Briarcrest and a younger son, Sean Jr. — became his legal guardians.
“They’ve got big hearts,” Oher says. “To take somebody from my neighborhood into your house? Nobody does that. I don’t think I’d even do that. I’d help you out, but with a daughter and with all the violence and drugs where I come from … they didn’t have to do that. I owe a lot to them.”
Oher, who quickly blossomed into a highly recruited college prospect, detests his depiction in Michael Lewis’ book, which was released in 2006 and reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.
Lewis, who gained access as a longtime classmate of Sean Tuohy’s, wrote that, according to Memphis school system files, Oher had a “measured IQ of 80″ when he applied to Briarcrest and he portrayed scenes in which Oher was uncommunicative in various settings.
After revealing at the NFL scouting combine that he didn’t read the book, Oher did exactly that within the past few weeks.
“The part about me not being smart, that’s the only thing that got to me,” said Oher, who made the honor roll in 2006 and maintains that he is 15 credits shy of earning a degree in criminal justice. “He’s got to sell books. But reading that, I went back and talked to him. I mean, how can anybody like that do the things I’ve done?”
Asked if his opinion fueled friction with the Tuohys, Oher said, “I can’t let something that small cause a problem. Especially with people who helped me.”
Sean says the book is “nearly 100% accurate” but suspects Oher doesn’t account for changes in his makeup since the book was reported. He said Oher’s grade-point average as a high school sophomore was 0.3.
“I guess that’s not stuff he wants to remember,” Sean says.
‘Character and perseverance’
I love you.
Oher surely remembers that statement. It came from Leigh Anne when he was 18, and it was the first time anyone ever uttered those words to him.
When he has kids, Oher says, they will hear it early and often.
This sentimental side he wears like body armor. As much as he aspires to become an NFL star, Oher envisions himself as a family man and supportive dad.
“He has such character and perseverance,” says Collins Tuohy, 22, set to graduate from Ole Miss next month. “Obviously, he’s changed and matured over the years. But we all do between the ages of 15 and 23.”
Collins and Oher have a tight bond. It began when she helped him adjust to Briarcrest. It strengthened as they attended the same college. Oher took Collins to the hospital when she was ill and got the call when there was a flat tire.
“He mentors me; I mentor him,” Collins says. “It just depends on the day.”
As she prepared to accompany Oher to New York, where he is one of nine prospects invited to draft headquarters, Collins sounded like a typical sister.
“I’m a bit nervous,” she said. “I really don’t want him trucking off to some faraway place.”
Sean Jr., meanwhile, might become the recipient of a big gift: Oher’s Hummer.
The youngest Tuohy kept the wheels while Oher visited several NFL teams on a whirlwind tour this month.
“He can’t stay out of it,” Oher says. “I might give it to him.”
There are other brothers and sisters, but Oher hardly expresses strong connections with biological siblings.
He’s closest to his oldest brother, Marcus, who works in the cleaning business.
Another brother, Deljuan, died in a car crash. Other siblings, he says, are “here and there.”
Oher doesn’t speak to his biological mother.
“I can’t relate to her at all,” he says. “We’re in different situations now. But for someone to keep doing the same thing, which got all of her kids taken away, it kind of breaks your heart.”
With an impressive Senior Bowl, Oher cemented his first-round status. Some rate him a top-10 pick.
At least four tackles are expected to become first-round picks Saturday, a point hammered home by the list of eight teams he visited and a ninth that came for a private workout.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he says. “It’s wait-and-see.”
Mississippi offensive line coach Mike Markuson has taken several calls from NFL teams. He tells them Oher is outstanding on run-action blocks in which he fires off the snap to sell the run, then shifts to pass protection.
One question inevitably comes up: How is he going to react when paid millions of dollars?
“He’s going to work,” Markuson, Oher’s third college position coach, says he tells them. “The game is important to him.”
Tuohy, once a record-setting point guard who led Ole Miss to a Southeastern Conference title in 1981 and currently a radio analyst for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, thinks Oher’s NFL career ultimately will be shaped by the traits that helped him beat life’s adversities.
A competitive fire. A willingness to accept input. An easygoing demeanor.
“He’s not mad at anybody,” Tuohy says. “He should be. He has a lot of fire but no anger. God has blessed him with way more than physical ability.”
Tuohy learned something significant about Oher a few years ago, when they were in the process of getting his driver’s license and had trouble finding Social Security records. They discovered Oher’s legal surname was Williams — his biological father’s name. He never knew, as school records listed him as Oher.
“I hit the ceiling, ‘How could that happen?’ ” Tuohy says. “But it didn’t bother him a lick. He just wanted that driver’s license.”
Says Oher: “I don’t dwell on anything. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself because I didn’t have a place to stay a lot of time. It is what it is. We’ve got to go through some things in life. Take it and run with it.”
Oher can never forget what he’s endured. He says he can’t pass a homeless person on the street without digging into his pocket and offering money. “I know how hard it is,” he says.
Holidays spark memories, too. They were never special. Oher would go outside on Christmas and watch other kids play with their new toys. Birthdays were not to be celebrated, either.
“I went through a lot of those with nothing,” he says. “That’s why it’s just another date to me.”
Oher also has a firm grasp on this exact moment in time.
“I’m fulfilling my dream,” he says. “It’s unbelievable, too.”
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