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Next chapter in Oher’s life: NFL draft

Ole Miss tackle overcame homelessness as youth

Mississippi left tackle Michael Oher has his life pointed in the right direction after enduring a troubled childhood.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Mississippi left tackle Michael Oher has his life pointed in the right direction after enduring a troubled childhood. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher’s life is an open book. Literally.

Oher’s story was chronicled in a best-selling book “The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis, who detailed Oher’s tale as a homeless youth in the toughest neighborhoods of Memphis, Tenn.

He attended 11 schools in nine years, could barely read or write and bounced from foster family to foster family before Oher was taken in by former Ole Miss basketball player Sean Tuohy and his wife.

Tuohy enrolled Oher (pronounced “Oar”) in an elite private high school, Briarcrest Christian, where he played football for the first time as a junior and became one of the most highly rated college prospects in the South.

At Ole Miss, Oher was a consensus All-American and won the Jacobs Trophy, which goes to the best blocker in the Southeastern Conference. He is expected to be one of the top four tackles taken in this month’s NFL draft.

Oher said the book has not affected his life, other than having to answer questions about it.

“Not a lot of people have the opportunity to have a book written about them,” Oher said at the NFL scouting combine, “and a lot of people know about my life and a lot of the things I overcame.

“I grew up poor and was homeless a lot growing up. I just worked hard and came through a lot of adversity. I just kept working. I was taken in by a family that helped me get to college and pushed me. That’s why I think I’m here today at this level.”

Oher, 6 feet 4 1/2 and 309 pounds, started 47 consecutive games at Ole Miss. After winning just 10 games in his first three seasons, Oher and the Rebels went 9-4 in 2008, including a victory over eventual BCS champion Florida, plus a Cotton Bowl upset of Texas Tech.

Most of the NFL teams he has spoken with have not asked Oher much about those years on the street where his only possessions were the clothes on his back. And he doesn’t believe his past will hurt him in the draft.

“They just told me that they knew about it,” Oher said. “They just wanted to talk football. How could it hurt me? It should be all about the performance on the field and how I play as a player. If I keep doing the things I do, it shouldn’t hurt me one bit.”

Oher, strangely enough, has not read the book.

“He talked to me a lot about the stuff, and went over a lot of things, and I felt I didn’t need to read it,” Oher said. “Hearing what a lot of people say about it, I think it was fairly accurate.”

Despite his disadvantaged developmental years, Oher said he made the dean’s list as a sophomore at Ole Miss and the honor roll “a couple of times.”

“I’m a smart guy,” added Oher, a criminal justice major. “I’m very smart.”

Oher was smart enough to reverse his original decision of declaring for the draft and stayed for his senior year.

“My junior year, I was very athletic as an offensive lineman,” Oher said. “My senior year, I showed how physical I was, and that I could be a nasty player and finish plays and took my game to a whole new level.”

Oher did not allow a sack as a senior. The last time he remembers getting beat for a sack was as a junior against Vanderbilt.

“I relaxed during the play, thought the ball was thrown, but the ball wasn’t thrown, and the guy got the quarterback,” Oher recalled.

Most observers have rated Oher fourth among offensive tackles, behind Baylor’s Jason Smith, Virginia’s Eugene Monroe and Alabama’s Andre Smith. Oher disagrees.

“To be honest, I feel that I’m the best at my position,” Oher said. “I think I’ve proven that this year. In everything, I feel I’m going to grade at the top.”

Oher prefers playing left tackle, which protects the blind side of the quarterback, but he said he would be comfortable on the right side as well.

“I’m a left tackle,” he emphasized. “I like playing left tackle. That’s my position. I think I can do it better than anybody. I think I could handle right tackle. With the great coaches, I think I can handle anything.”

Oher will require some good coaching, said Mike Mayock, NFL Network draft analyst.

“Oher is a gifted athlete who has been inconsistent as a player,” Mayock said. “What I saw at the Senior Bowl was exactly what I saw in his career at Ole Miss. He looks great for two or three or four or five plays in a row, and then a pass protection bust. That inconsistency can get you killed in the NFL. Some teams are going to have to take a look at that.

“Sometimes he looks beautiful, sometimes he’s lazy. He’s either going to be a tremendous Pro Bowl player or four or five years from now, he will be a footnote.”

Oher will also be the subject of a movie when “The Blind Side” is made into a motion picture.

“I think it’s good that something is being made into a movie about you, because not too many people get a chance to do that,” Oher said.

Who do you want to play you?

“I have no idea,” he said. “And don’t care.”

 
Tags: football, NFL

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