There's more to Michael Oher than 'The Blind Side'

Posted Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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NEW ORLEANS -- The most recognizable player at Super Bowl XLVII did not have his own podium at media day.

Teammates Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Ed Reed and Dennis Pitta have been among the featured Baltimore Ravens this week.

Meanwhile, Michael Oher has stood in the background, an uncomfortable star.

Oher's life was the subject of a book turned into an award-winning movie, The Blind Side. The 2009 drama film, featuring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw, grossed $308 million.

"I'm not in the movies, man. I play football," Oher said on more than one occasion this week.

Yet, Oher has casual football fans, some of whom refer to him as "The Blind Side guy," rooting for the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. They know Oher as Quinton Aaron, the actor who played his part in the semi-biographical drama.

Oher isn't as big of a fan of The Blind Side as critics, movie goers and Oscar voters who awarded Bullock for her lead role. Oher told his side of his rag-to-riches tale in his own book, I Beat the Odds after seeing the movie.

"I didn't like the football part of it, because I've always known how to play football since I was a kid," Oher said. "And the personality was way off. I also look a little bit better. That was a problem, too."

Oher is the most recognizable offensive lineman in the NFL, but it has nothing to do with his play, a fact that rubs him the wrong way.

"He's a good football player," said 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, who has never met Oher but has seen the movie. "I think that gets lost. He's a really good football player. It's a great story, where he's come from, and the movie obviously gets him a lot of recognition. But he's also a really good football player."

Oher, born to a mother with a drug addiction, grew up on the streets of Memphis, living with various foster parents until his size got him admitted into Briarcrest Christian School. There, the teenager was adopted by white parents, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, and developed into a coveted high school prospect.

Oher played at Ole Miss, the Tuohys' alma mater, and was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Ravens.

Oher has started all 64 possible games in four NFL seasons, 36 at left tackle -- the quarterback's blind side -- and 28 at right tackle. He has never made the Pro Bowl, allowing 32.25 sacks in his career.

Pro Football Focus rated him 56th among all tackles in football this season when he allowed 11.5 sacks while starting 14 games at left tackle and two at right tackle. But the Ravens switched Oher back to the right side before the playoffs, bringing Bryant McKinnie off the bench to start at left tackle.

Oher has not allowed a sack in the postseason, and the Ravens' revamped line of McKinnie, left guard Kelechi Osemele, center Matt Birk, right guard Marshal Yanda and Oher have gotten Joe Flacco sacked only four times in 99 dropbacks in three playoff games.

The Ravens appreciate Oher's versatility and his willingness to help the team by switching positions when needed, even if it means forsaking the side that made him famous.

"His ability to play on both sides, his ability to switch sides during his career and do that and not bat an eye and be ready to go and have the hardest job that you have on the offensive line, blocking the defensive ends on third down, I've never coached anybody else that can do that like him," Ravens offensive line coach Andy Moeller said. "He is a tremendous value from that standpoint, as a team player and really selfless. I can't say enough good things about Michael Oher. He's a great player, and he's a great team player. I think that's what really makes him good."

Oher's teammates, though, haven't let Oher forget that he no longer is protecting Flacco's blind side.

"I tell him that: You don't protect the blind side," Ravens fullback Vonta Leach said, chuckling. "We moved him to right tackle, so he don't protect the blind side. He can't claim that."

It is one of many jokes about the movie in the Ravens' locker room. Coach John Harbaugh once showed a clip of the movie, with Oher's permission, during a team meeting. The scene has Oher, as a high school player, drive blocking a defensive player all the way down the field.

And the movie poster was hung in the locker room.

Despite the ribbing Oher has gotten from teammates, and the fact that he is tired of talking about the movie, Oher does hope The Blind Side touches kids growing up as he did.

"That's why I get up every day, because I know there are so many other people out there who are in my shoes," Oher said. "No matter what, keep a positive mind and stay focused. There is hope out here on the other side of the tracks."

Charean Williams

817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

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