The Real Story of Michael Oher, The Man Behind ‘The Blind Side’

The early years

Michael Oher had a pretty rough childhood. His mother was an addict, and his father had been killed while serving in prison. He had not always been a success story.

Michael Oher had a rough childhood and grew up with an addict mother

Taking care of himself

Although Michael’s mother struggled with addiction and he had an absent father, Michael managed to get by in life. He grew up in Hurt Village, an infamous town in North Memphis that is notorious for crime and poverty, but he wasn’t alone. Michael was one of the twelve siblings who all had to make their way in life without a proper mother or father figure to look up to. For the most part, Michael Oher had to take care of himself.

Michael Oher was one of twelve siblings who all grew up in a poverty-stricken area

Into the system

After a while, word of Michael Oher, his siblings, and their alcoholic mother reached the authorities – and at just 7-years-old, he was taken into the system and placed into foster care. At this point, Oher had received no proper discipline, had no one to look up to, and no one to look after him. Because of this, he struggled to adapt to life in foster care and would regularly run away. He was headed up a slippery slope…

When he was 7-years-old, Michael Oher was placed into foster care, but regularly ran away from his foster homes

A loving auto-mechanic

Before it was too late, Michael Oher was saved by a loving auto-mechanic by the name of Tony Henderson. Henderson saw something in Oher and decided to enroll him at the local school and let him crash on his couch. In The Blind Side, Henderson (who is called Tony Hamilton in the movie) is largely overlooked, something Michael Oher has condemned over recent years. Michael Oher believes that Hamilton was not given the credit he deserved for changing his life.

Michael Oher was saved by Tony Henderson, an auto-mechanic, who put him through school and let him crash on the couch

A kind soul

Those who knew Michael Oher during his younger years – including Tony Hamilton – remember Oher as a kid with a kind soul. Despite his unfortunate circumstances, he was always quiet, polite and kept himself to himself. However, he always made sure those around him were happy. Nevertheless, this kind-hearted nature didn’t help him academically. Oher fell in with the wrong crowd, would skip classes and attended a whopping eleven school years across nine years. But it was one school that changed everything…

Michael Oher was always a kind-hearted soul but struggled with school and academics

The Briarcrest Christian School

After much persuading, Tony Henderson managed to get Michael Oher a place at Briarcrest Christian School. The name of the school was changed in the movie, as producers wanted to exhibit their ‘artistic license.’ Because of this, it was called Wingate Christian School. As soon as Michael first stepped foot into the hallways of Briarcrest, he stuck out like a sore thumb. However, this worked in his favor, as this was how Collins Tuohy noticed him.

Michael Oher enrolled at the Briarcrest Christian School, and stuck out like a sore thumb

Talking to her father

Collins Tuohy was intrigued by the 15-year-old Michael and decided to tell her father, Sean, about the new student at the school. Sean was immediately curious about Michael and decided to follow him around the school to find out more about him. He noticed that Michael would rarely eat anything at school, as he did not have the money to buy lunch. Sean was appalled, and wanted to help the young boy – so Sean bought his lunch for him.

Collins Tuohy told her father, Sean, about Michael Oher - and he was shocked to find he couldn’t afford lunch

The poem

One of the most poignant moments in The Blind Side is when Michael reads his poems – which he entitled ‘White Walls.’ In the movie, Mrs. Boswell (who is called Marilyn Beasley in real life) asked Michael to read his poem aloud to the whole class, just a few days after he arrived at Briarcrest. Many believe the poem was created by Hollywood for the movie. However, Michael has confirmed that he really did write the poem – but in his senior year.

Michael’s poem, ‘White Walls’ was thought to be a creation for the movie, but Oher wrote it himself

Artistic liberties

There have been many claims of ‘artistic liberties’ throughout The Blind Side, but the real-life Leigh Ann Tuohy maintains that much of the film was true to life – including the moment when Leigh Ann offers Michael a place to stay. During this scene, Michael Oher is seen walking through the rain in nothing but shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, carrying his carrier bag of personal belongings. Leigh Ann is upset to find Michael has nowhere to stay, so offers him her couch.

Leigh Ann Tuohy maintains that the scene where Michael walks through the rain is true to life

The real story

However, Michael Oher has claimed that Leigh Ann’s story isn’t exactly true to life. Instead, Michael Oher has a different story. He maintains that he was wearing a shirt and jeans, and walking around town in the cold, with the snow beating down on him. Leigh Ann and the Tuohy’s stopped their car as they walked past him – but rather than offering her couch to him, Leigh Ann asked him to go to the mall with her the next day.

Rather than offering him her couch straight away, Leigh Ann Tuohy asked Michael to go to the mall the next day

Couch surfing

In The Blind Side, Michael Oher’s transformation from homeless teen to part of the Tuohy family was almost instant. In real life, this wasn’t the case. Although Michael and the Tuohy family were close, he did not move in with them straight away. Instead, he continued to live with Tony Henderson and various foster families. When his football coaches noticed he had no permanent residence, he stayed with the Tuohy’s – but only for a couple of nights at a time.

Michael Oher did not move in with the Tuohy’s straight away but stayed within the foster system

Feeling loved

After his stint in the foster system and moving from family to family, Michael Oher found unconditional love and companionship with the Tuohy family. He has since noted that he would often feel unloved and unwelcome when he lived with foster families – something he never felt with Leigh Ann, Sean, Collins, and MJ. At 16-years-old, Michael was welcomed into the Tuohy household and felt more loved than he had ever been in his life. Luckily for Michael, his good fortune was just beginning…

Michael Oher felt loved in the Tuohy household, but his good fortune was just beginning

Something he’s never had before

When he moved into the Tuohy household, Michael Oher began to see life as he had never experienced it before. After sharing a cramped house and bedroom with eleven of his brothers and sisters, Michael was finally able to experience what it was like to sleep on a bed – and have one for his own. When Leigh Ann and Sean present Michael with his own futon, Michael is overwhelmed…especially because the futon was popular with pro athletes.

Michael was presented with his first ever bed, something he had not had as a child

Big Mike

In The Blind Side and real life, Michael Oher was often called ‘Big Mike’ – because he was both large and heavy. When he was just 15-years-old, Michael already weighed a whopping 350 pounds and stood at an incredible 6’2”. By 2010, these numbers had escalated. He came in at 6’4” and 309. In the movie, Big Mike was played by Quinton Aaron, who was fairly similar in stature. At the time of filming, Aaron weighed in at 472 pounds and was 6’8”!

In 2010, Michael Oher or ‘Big Mike’ weighed 309 pounds and stood at 6’4” - which was smaller than the actor who played him

What’s in a name?

Although Michael Oher has always been aware that he is larger than the average American, he has never been fond of his nickname. In The Blind Side, Michael confesses to Leigh Ann Tuohy that he hates it when people call him ‘Big Mike’ and wishes they would stop. Leigh Ann then promised Michael that she would always call him by his given name. When asked about this moment, both Oher and Leigh Ann confirmed it really happened.

Michael Oher has never liked his nickname of ‘Big Mike’ and confessed this to Leigh Ann in real life

All a lie

One of the most pivotal moments in The Blind Side involves Leigh Ann storming onto the football pitch, to give Michael a pep talk. Leigh Ann then tells Michael to pretend his teammates are his family, and that his job is to protect them at all times. However, this scene is completely fictional. Oher has reprimanded this scene, as he maintains that he always knew how to play football – and did not need Mrs. Tuohy to step in.

The scene in which Leigh Ann Tuohy storms onto the field to give Michael a pep talk was made up

The passion was there

Michael Oher has always been upset with the fact that Hollywood downsized his passion and his love for the game of football. In the movie, Leigh Ann Tuohy is the driving force behind his career on the football field. In real life, the passion was there from a young age. Michael was always interested in the sport and had never had a problem with his aggression or the fire needed for a good game and defense.

Michael Oher has always had a passion for football, and always had the aggression and fire there

Problems with his anger

Although he was a talented football player, Michael Oher did have a few problems on the football field – including his anger problems. In The Blind Side, Michael is portrayed as a quiet and shy player who simply ignores the comments and racial slurs directed towards him. In real life, this was not the case. In fact, Michael would find it impossible to ignore the comments and would often fight back – just like he did against the Munford defensive.

Michael Oher struggled with his anger and would find it impossible to ignore the comments and racial slurs on the football field

Collins and Michael

Although there were some students who wanted to drag Michael down and belittle him, there were others who were always accepting and welcoming – including Collins Tuohy. In the movie, it’s clear Collins always made an effort with her larger-than-life adoptive brother. She has since reported that all of her friends were also incredibly sweet and caring towards Michael Oher. Not only did they help him fit in, but they also helped him get his grades up to scratch.

Collins Tuohy and her friends were always accepting and welcoming to Michael Oher

A risky game

In the movie, it’s fair to say that Leigh Ann Tuohy is a strong and independent woman who will always speak her mind and do what’s best for her and her family – and it’s no different in real life. Just like in the movie, Leigh Ann’s friends and acquaintances took it upon themselves to warn her of the risky game she was involved in, including putting Michael and Collins under the same roof. She simply told them to ‘mind your own business’…

Leigh Ann Tuohy told her friends to mind their own business when they started to warn her

Color doesn’t matter

Many of Leigh Ann’s friends were worried that the raging hormones of two teenagers would end in disaster, but the criticism didn’t stop there. After their worries about the teens, the critics then moved onto another topic – Michael’s race. She was often questioned over her choice to let a black male into her home, but she always maintained that her choice was nothing to do with the color of his skin. All that mattered was that Michael was a child in need.

Many of their critics questioned Leigh Ann’s choice to bring a black man into her home

A football star

Just a short while after he enrolled at Briarcrest Christian School, Michael’s football talent was discovered – and he became one of the best players on the field. Word of his talent soon became public, and Michael was inundated with thousands of letters from college football recruiters, all of whom wanted Michael to join their team. However, Michael chose the Tuohy’s alma mater, Ole Miss. This choice roused suspicion, but Michael has maintained he chose Ole Miss simply because he wanted to.

Michael was inundated with college offers but chose Ole Miss - which raised suspicion

A professional career

In 2009, Michael Oher was one of the biggest names in college and professional football. That year, the Tuohy’s wiped away their tears as they watched their adoptive son and brother as he was drafted into the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. He was chosen as a starting lineman and signed a whopping $13 million contract – something the young Michael Oher had only dreamt of. Just a few months after his debut, he was awarded the title of Rookie of the Month.

In 2009, Michael Oher was drafted in to play with the Baltimore Ravens on a $13 million contract

Making sacrifices

However, the life of a professional football player isn’t all it seems to be – as the sportsman have to constantly work to be on top of their game. Every day on the football field can be a risk and can result in physical injuries and neurological damage that could prove permanent. Nevertheless, Michael Oher is committed to bettering himself and ignoring what other people have to say about him. Sure, he’s had to make sacrifices, but it’s all part of the game.

Professional football is always risky, and you have to make sacrifices, but Michael Oher is committed to the game

A negative effect

Although The Blind Side has been a blockbuster hit and racked up an incredible $300 million in profit, there have been downsides to the release of Michael Oher’s story – because much of it is false. Michael Oher has found that the movie has had a negative effect on his career and has noted that many people struggle to differentiate between the real Michael Oher and the Michael Oher they see in the movie. Nevertheless, his teammates have always been supportive of him.

Michael Oher has found that The Blind Side has had a negative effect on his career

Making adjustments

Throughout his seven-year run in the NFL, Michael Oher had to make technical adjustments to suit his team and the game – including switching from left tackle to right tackle. Oher made a name for himself as a left tackle and couldn’t imagine himself as a right tackle, so the change altered his progress. Nevertheless, it was a decision that needed to be made for the team. He also wanted to protect his teammates from the press…so took matters into his own hands.

Throughout his NFL career, Michael Oher has had to make adjustments to suit his team and his teammates

Off the field

Michael Oher is so committed to his teammates, he has always wanted to protect them from the negative press from the movie. So, Michael Oher has spoken out about The Blind Side and his perception – which is a pretty negative one. Oher shuns the movie, as it takes away from his real-life talent and his football prowess. Instead, they think of him as a player off the field, who is just like the character in the movie. But that is not him.

Michael Oher has shunned The Blind Side for ignoring his real talent on the football field

Chopping and changing

However, Michael Oher has not always hated The Blind Side – and often finds himself chopping and changing his mind about whether he likes it or not. For the most part, he maintains that the movie is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the film reminds him of his humble background and all the hard work he has put in. On the other hand, he is now known as the ‘guy from the movie’ rather than a talented sportsman.

Michael likes the movie because it reminds him of his upbringing, but doesn't like it as it takes away from his talent

Overshadows his talent

In the early years of his NFL career, Michael Oher really struggled with the movie and the effect it was having on his game. After the movie was released, all focus was taken away from his game on the field and was put into his backstory and his transition from troubled kid to professional football player. He didn’t want the movie to overshadow his talent. Nevertheless, as the years have gone by, Michael Oher has come to terms with the movie.

In his early professional career, Michael struggled with the movie release but has slowly come to terms with it

A hopeful future

At 31-years-old, Michael Oher has recently been released from his position within the Carolina Panthers, because of his deteriorating physical health. Of course, health is everything in the world of sport, and his coaches cannot risk permanent injury. Despite the fact he is no longer playing professional football, Michael is hopeful for the future. He now earns his own money and is able to live a life he never even dreamed of. He’s come a long way from the projects in Memphis.

Michael Oher has now been released from professional football due to poor health but is hopeful for the future