Homeless Foster Kid-Turned-NFL Star Shares Flip Side of “The Blind Side”
Michael Oher was born on May 28, 1986 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he negotiated a perilous path through the foster care system, experiencing periods of homelessness. He eventually attended Briarcrest Christian School and met Sean and Leigh-Anne Tuohy, who became his adoptive parents.
His inspirational story is the subject of Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which was adapted to the screen in 2009 as The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock in an Oscar-winning performance. Oher currently lives in Maryland where he is an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.
After playing college football at the University of Mississippi for the Ole Miss Rebels, he was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Following his first year in the league, he was named to both the Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie team and the USA Today All-Joe Team. He also earned NFL Rookie of the Month honors for December and recently completed a second successful season with the Ravens, making the playoffs.
Here, Michael talks about his new autobiography, I Beat the Odds.
Michael Oher: No problem. What’s up?
Michael Oher: It wasn’t a good feeling losing to those guys. It really stung.
Michael Oher: I just couldn’t bear to look at it. I watched a total of about four minutes.
Michael Oher: Hopefully, you won’t give me a million, ay?
Michael Oher: There’s a big difference between where I came from and the NFL. Things like this don’t happen to people from there often. It just took a lot of hard work and dedication, staying on the right path, believing in myself, and having an inner drive.
Michael Oher: I kinda wanted to clear some things up after I got thousands of letters from people who looked up to me, telling me I was such an inspiration, and that they wanted to follow in my footsteps. And that if I could do it, they could do it. I wanted to send out a positive message and let them know that you don’t need a wealthy family to come in and save you, like they saw in The Blind Side, because I felt that I always had an inner drive deep, down inside. So, I just want to be an encouraging voice for those who don’t believe they can make it.
Michel Oher: I’ve always been connected to them and maintained those relationships. That scene in the movie was just Hollywood.
Michael Oher: As you know, I put a lot of the unfortunate statistics in my book. But there are a ton of us who’ve been through the foster care system who are successful. Basically, I hope I’ve started something off by putting my story out there. Now we need others to share their stories and let everybody know what the real deal is and that it is possible to beat the odds.
Michael Oher: All of them are important factors. I’d say you need all three.
Michael Oher: That really wasn’t a big deal for me, although obviously there were some adjustments, since the Tuohy’s had a different lifestyle from what I was accustomed to. But there was a lot of love, and that’s what helped to spark a great relationship.
Michael Oher: Yes, they’re still family. We talk every day, and they come to every one of my games.
Michael Oher: We’re not as close as we used to be but, hopefully, we’ll get back to where we once were in the future.
Michael Oher: Like I said before, you don’t need to win the lottery or for somebody to come save you. I’m a living testimony to that. If you want to do it, it is possible.
Michael Oher: By devoting the time to sit down with a kid, one-on-one, and just letting them know that they can do it. That’s all that it takes, giving them the confidence.
Michael Oher: That’s the same as asking do you believe in God. Of course, we all need angels. I had to have one over my head throughout my life, even right now. The odds of my making it were slim to none. So you have to have an angel. You have to believe.
Michael Oher: I can’t say right now. I’d have to see down the road. But I’d love to look into it and, hopefully, save a life as well.
Michael Oher: I think there’s a need for more oversight by social workers, because there are a lot of foster parents who are just collecting checks. They need to look closely into the backgrounds of the people whose hands you’re putting the kids into and then continue to monitor them.
Michael Oher: No.
Michael Oher: Very.
Michael Oher: I have a good laugh all the time. Very often.
Michael Oher: I Beat the Odds.
Michael Oher: Thank you, Kam.