Every NFL player has a story about their journey to the league. But few can compare to the story of Baltimore Ravens rookie Michael Oher, the man who inspired the movie The Blind Side (in theaters Friday).
As a child, Oher bounced from foster home to foster home in Tennessee before being taken in and adopted by the Touhy family. They helped improved his grades, which allowed Oher to play college football at the University of Mississippi. An amazing pass protector, he became an All-America and the Ravens took him with the 23rd pick of the 2009 NFL Draft.
We caught up with the man behind the movie to talk about The Blind Side, his childhood, and his rookie year with the Ravens...
SIKIDS.com: Obviously you’re getting a lot of attention because of the movie The Blind Side. How are you dealing with it?
Oher: I mean, I think it is cool. It doesn’t happen to a lot of people. But at the end of the day I’m just a football player, doing my work, trying to get better.
SIKIDS.com: The movie tells your life story, including how you were adopted after being homeless as a kid. How did those experiences help shape you?
Oher: I think it helped me mature a lot faster than a lot of people, and it helped teach me to never take anything for granted.
SIKIDS.com: What would you say to kids who are struggling with what you dealt with as a kid?
Oher: I just want to help those kids out and show them that anything is possible, whatever it is that they want to do. You can say, “If you set your mind to it you can do it.” But I can show them there’s a way out and that it can be OK.
SIKIDS.com: Plenty of guys who went through that could be angry, but you don’t seem to hold a grudge.
Oher: I know I have to let what happened in the past stay in the past. I learn something every day, I grow as a person every day. I have to move on. No point in making everything negative. I’d much rather be positive.
SIKIDS.com: Let’s move on to football. Coming into your rookie season, did you expect to start right away?
Oher: I didn’t expect anything. I didn’t expect to start. I knew if I worked hard and did my best I would be alright and I would see where it went. It’s been a lot of hard work.
SIKIDS.com: You originally declared for the 2008 NFL draft, but decided to go back to Ole Miss for your senior season. Why did you do that?
Oher: I felt that it was better for me. I went back, I got better as a player, I had the chance to spend some more time with my [college] teammates. I think it helped me out as a player and a person. It made me better at football.
SIKIDS.com: You’ve been moved back and forth between left and right tackle. Is that a tough thing to do?
Oher: Right tackle, left tackle, it’s still the same thing. You gotta stop a pass rusher. It doesn’t make a difference to me.
SIKIDS.com: What’s it like getting to work with Joe Flacco?
Oher: It’s big, having a young quarterback on the team. He’s going to be great, he’s doing great right now and he’s proving himself as one of the best in the league. It’s good to be close in age with him, because hopefully we can play together for a long time.
SIKIDS.com What about suiting up with Ray Lewis? Does anything prepare you for that?
Oher: It’s big going out there on the field, being out there with guys like Ray Lewis, knowing he has my back and I have his. I’ve been watching these guys for so long and now I’m on the same field and it’s amazing. I know what kind of player he is and all the knowledge he has, the emotional side of the game. It’s just incredible.
SIKIDS.com: What goes through your mind when you see your quarterback get sacked?
Oher: You don’t want your quarterback getting hurt, you don’t want him on the ground. But you can’t think about it on the next snap, you just gotta do what you need to do on the next play. You can’t think about the last play.
SIKIDS.com: Which team did you root for as a kid?
Oher: I was a Cowboys fan when I was younger.
SIKIDS.com: So, you’d be happy with a Ravens vs. Cowboys Super Bowl?
Oher: [laughs] That would be good!