Oher focused on football, not the movie

OWINGS MILLS -- The grounded reality of blocking Indianapolis Colts speedy defensive end Robert Mathis today is the clear preference of Baltimore Ravens rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher rather than focusing on the Hollywood movie about his life.   Football consumes him, not the blockbuster film, "The Blind Side," starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw.

As the movie opened in theaters around the nation this weekend, Oher studied his playbook to prepare for today's game against the undefeated Colts. He didn't attend any premieres.

"I'm not curious, and I'm not in any hurry to see it," Oher said. "I will watch it eventually, I'm sure, but we have a football game to prepare for."

Oher is used to garnering attention beyond being an NFL player.

A homeless teenager growing up in Memphis, Tenn., whose mother was addicted to crack cocaine with a father he didn't know who was later murdered, Oher was adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and embraced with love by his new, wealthy family.

He emerged as a blue-chip recruit at Ole Miss and later as the Ravens' first-round draft pick.

"I am never ashamed of where I came from," Oher said. "Where I came from, a lot of people don't make it out. I think it has made me a tougher person, a better player."

"Michael doesn't think about what happened seven years ago," Sean Tuohy said during a conference call this week. "He doesn't think about what happened seven days ago. He doesn't have any rage about the past. That's why he's the person he is today."

It has been a seamless transition to the NFL with Oher starting every game and displaying a mean streak celebrated by his teammates and dreaded by opponents.

Oher didn't participate in the movie project, and he hasn't been promoting it.

That job has been left to the movie studio's publicity department, the actors and his parents.

"I think he's proud of where he's come from and what he's been able to accomplish, the Tuohy's as his family and what they mean to him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I also think, like all of us, he wants to move on and move forward with his life and what he's going to accomplish going forward.

"That's really the story to me, to us. It's a great motivational story for anybody, but, at the same time, what is he going to do from here on out? That's the thing we're interested in, and that's kind of where his thoughts are."

Oher grew up with 13 siblings before spending time in various foster homes and schools, falling behind academically with a 0.6 grade point average.

The Tuohy's took him in and helped him grow academically, spiritually and emotionally.

And his parents approve of the movie's portrayal of their family.

"I've seen it five times and when I walked out of the movie every single time I had the feeling I had and hoped that people will leave and try to do something good for somebody," Leigh Anne Tuohy said. "We don't have any idea how many Michael Oher's are out there on the streets of America or the world that society basically deemed valueless. You can have a life-changing impact. We just hope that people try to do something to change a kid's life."

As a burgeoning high school football player at the prestigious Briarcrest Christian School, he caught the attention of author Michael Lewis, who wrote the book about Oher's life.

"I read it," Oher said. "Some things in the book, I didn't like. It happened, and there are things you have to live with. You just have to keep growing every day."

The movie also includes cameo appearances from several coaches who recruited Oher, including Nick Saban and Lou Holtz.

"That was spot on," Sean Tuohy said. "Michael didn't say three words when Saban was at our house. Now, Michael walks into a room and commands an audience with charisma and character. He's not even the same kid. He's not intimidated or shy anymore. It's a complete transformation."

With the Ravens, Oher has gained the respect of veteran players like six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk through his low-key approach, blue-collar work ethic and willingness to listen.

"I have great respect for Mike," Birk said. "I don't know his whole story, but I certainly know and respect him just the way he comes in here every day. A lot of times you see guys come in this league as if they're entitled and all that. Mike comes to work and is a gentleman. We have a lot of fun.

"He's just a joy to have around. He seems to be handling everything fine. He can be classified as a good rookie, a guy that works hard, keeps his mouth shut and is getting better. Obviously, he's contributing and is a big reason for some of the success that we've had."

Portrayed by actor Quinton Aaron, whose beefy, 6-foot-8, 372-pound frame has subjected Oher to a few jokes in the Ravens' locker room, Oher's physique has come a long way.

He was an overweight 355 pounds in high school. Now, he's a fairly chiseled 6-foot-4, 310-pounder.

"Michael was monstrous," Sean Tuohy said. "It's a big difference. Confidence wise, he's off the charts now."

Oher doesn't think the inspirational movie will change his life, or his relentless attitude.

"I think I'll be the same," Oher said. "People don't recognize me now, and I don't think they will next month."


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