Michael Oher won a Super Bowl and played in the NFL for years. However, he might be the only Super Bowl champion who became more famous for a whole different reason.
In 2009, Oher was portrayed in the inspirational sports drama film The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, and Tim McGraw. That was also the year he was drafted – and it seemed like the movie was doing great for him.
However, that wasn’t the case through Michael Oher’s eyes. Even though he became famous, the film also caused some problems. And in the end, it set unrealistic expectations. This is all you need to know about Michael Oher – and the whole different story behind The Blind Side.
There are many inspirational stories in the world of sports that have become somewhat legendary. They usually have one theme in common: The only thing that matters is to give it your best and not ever give up on your dream.
Michael Oher – early life
That is also the story of Michael Oher, the NFL player who became more famous for how he got there.
When looking at Michael Oher’s childhood, it’s hard to imagine that he became a star football player.
Born on May 28, 1986, in Memphis, Tennessee, his early years were far from easy.
At the same time as his mother struggled with substances, his father went in and out of prison. Michael was one of 12 children, and life was far from excellent.
“When my mother was off drugs and working, she would remember to buy groceries, and there would be a mad scramble to grab whatever you could before anyone else got to it,” he wrote in his 2011 book I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to the Blind Side, and Beyond.
Even though it was far from good at home, Michael Oher had already decided what his life would be like. He swore to himself to grow up and make his escape.
And since his parents had their problems to deal with, he had to grow up fast.
“She wasn’t really around too much. I took care of myself most of the time,” Oher said in an interview with 20/20.
“I was a heartbroken little kid”
At one point, it was enough. Social workers removed him and his siblings from their mother’s home just as Oher finished first grade. He was put in several foster families, and when he didn’t live in one, he bounced around on friend’s couches.
Since he didn’t have one steady home, Michael Oher had a rough time in school. He repeated both the first and the second grade, attending nine different schools over 11 years.
As described in the 2006 Michael Lewis book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game – which became the start of Oher’s fame outside of the football field – social workers feared that he would become an angry young man, with a “masking pent-up rage,” and they sent him to the adolescent unit of St. Joseph Hospital at 10.
However, that wasn’t true at all.
“I wasn’t mad, I was sad,” Oher wrote in his biography. “I was a heartbroken little kid who was hurt and confused about everything that was going on around me.”
Oher was getting help from psychiatrists, speaking about his feelings. But in the end, he didn’t want to stay at the hospital unit and ran back to his mother. They moved to a housing project called Hurt Village when Oher was 11 and stayed there until he started high school.
Start of football career
The housing project gave Michael Oher a whole different view of life. He recalled seeing teenage girls around him having babies while many teenage boys were involved in the gang scene, committing crimes.
Just as when he was younger, he knew that he had to work hard not to get involved in the same activities as many teenage boys. But, he knew he was different and began to develop his athleticism.
In the end, Oher just wanted to escape his life of poverty.
“Even if it meant working three jobs, at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell, I wasn’t going to be part of my environment,” he explained.
Initially, Oher dreamt about a basketball career. He was quick and had played basketball while living at the Hurt Village housing project. However, that wasn’t going to be part of his future. At least not professionally.
At the Hurt Village’s community basketball league Michael Oher met a person that changed his life. He became great friends with a boy named Steve, whose father, “Big Tony” Henderson, was a coach.
Steve and Michael were determined to make it to college. “Big Tony” made sure to take care of Michael as well, and one day, he brought the two to Briarcrest Christian School outside of Cordova, Tennessee.
Henderson convinced the school to take in both Michael and Steve as a “package deal” – and once there, another significant person appeared.
Michael Oher – Leigh Anne Tuohy
Michael Oher liked basketball, but in the end, football was his calling. He played his freshman year at a public school in Memphis, and at Briarcrest, he continued with his football career as an offensive tackle.
Even though Oher had an excellent talent for football, there was one problem. At the time, his grades weren’t good enough, and the school’s football coach Hugh Freeze decided to try and help. He submitted Michael’s application to the school’s headmaster, who agreed to let him play on one condition: To complete a home study program.
In 2003, Michael Oher met a woman named Leigh Anne Tuohy. She worked as an interior designer and had a son and daughter attending Briarcrest.
Oher was still living in different foster homes, but not for long. Leigh and her husband Sean took Michael in and even hired a home tutor to help him improve his grades. Better grades were his ticket to college and a future football career – and Leigh and Sean were adamant in helping him the best they could.
In 2004, Michael Oher was adopted by Leigh and Sean. Eventually, Leigh became the first person to tell him, “I love you,” even though it took a while for Michael to believe her.
He explained that even though he felt loved by his birth mother and the rest of his birth family, “A child still needs to hear those words. A kid has to know they’re wanted.”
Became a high school superstar
Further, Michael Oher described that the Tuohy family provided him with crucial support to pursue his dream.
“They didn’t treat me like I was fragile or with curiosity like I was a strange creature they had to figure out before we could get close,” he wrote in his memoir. “I was able to understand what I’d suspected, that a life like mine in childhood wasn’t normal, and it wasn’t okay.”
Being a part of the Tuohy family was like another world had opened for Michael. And most importantly, they also loved having him.
“He thinks I birthed him,” Leigh Anne told ABC, jokingly. “It’s gotten to the point where I think I birthed him. He takes great offense if people don’t think that he’s a part of the family.”
“It was just me and him all the time,” Sean Jr, Michael’s brother, recalled. “We didn’t miss a beat. I always introduced him as my big brother.”
Oher might have lacked formal education and athletic training, but his life changed forever when attending Briarcrest.
As Oher started playing football at the school, he didn’t have a reputation. But it didn’t take long before University coaches suddenly knew exactly who he was.
NFL contract worth $13.8 million
Michael Oher polished his game and became a fantastic player. As described in his book, Oher was named the Lineman of the Year in 2003 and even reached the First Team Tennessee All-State. As a result, universities from all over the country – including football hot spots such as Alabama, LSU, and Auburn – wanted to sign him on a scholarship. Still, in the end, Oher chose the University of Mississippi. He managed to get his grades to attend the university, and during his stay in Mississippi, Oher made the honor roll twice.
In 2009, he graduated with a degree in criminal justice – and the same year, he was drafted by the NFL team Baltimore Ravens. In the summer, he signed a five-year contract with the team worth $13.8 million.
That year changed Michael’s life in many ways. It was also the year when the film about his incredible journey, The Blind Side, premiered.
It detailed the life of Oher and his inspirational journey from being a homeless teenager to earning a scholarship at the University of Mississippi and finally being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
The movie was written and directed by John Lee Hancock. The film starred Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, and Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy.
Michael Oher criticized ‘The Blind Side’
The film – based on the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis – became a smash hit in Hollywood, winning Sandra Bullock an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. In total, it made over $300 million at the box office.
From the start, it seemed like Michael Oher himself didn’t quite enjoy the film, at least some parts of it and how he was portrayed. And it was clear that he felt his real story didn’t come through on-screen.
“The movie’s great, very inspiring,” Oher said. “The football part is the only part I have a problem with. Sports was all I had when I was growing up – it made me look like I just didn’t know anything.”
The audience loved The Blind Side, but Michael Oher wasn’t as pleased. He felt that the portrayal of him wasn’t correct at all.
Michael Oher played for nine seasons in the NFL, winning the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. However, even though he had a successful time in the NFL, he told ESPN that the film harmed his career.
“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Oher said. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field.
“Who gives a damn about what people say”
“This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football. It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”
It didn’t take long before the actor – Quinton Aaron – portraying Oher answered.
“You gotta at some point notice the amount of people’s lives this movie has touched in a positive, encouraging, and inspiring manner,” he explained. “At the end of the day, bro, you are a millionaire, you’re famous, you are a Super Bowl Champ, you have an amazing family that loves you, friends, fans, and teammates.”
“Who gives a damn about what people say or think who wanna criticize your game, bro, that shouldn’t matter. Somebody is always going to have something to say that you’re not going to like,” he added. “So what, you had a couple of bad seasons. I believe you’ve got a lot more fuel in the tank, so let’s start hashing out some good ones and forget what people think about you. I got your back, brotha God Bless!”
So what is Michael Oher doing today? He ended his playing career in 2017, and since, he’s focused on helping others.
Michael Oher today – net worth
Michael has had great success off the field, creating the Good Deeds application. It allows people to connect within their community to help struggling people.
“It is all about connecting people who have needs with those who want to give,” he said. “Download the app and help a child in need beat the odds like I did. Be an answer to someone’s prayers.”
Not much is known about his private life. But through his Instagram page, Oher is making the most of his time helping other people in need.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Oher has a net worth of $16 million.
Michael Oher’s story is truly an inspirational one. Even though he has opinions on the film The Blind Side, we can learn a lot from Michael’s life, and hopefully, it can inspire others to help people in their community.