When Baltimore Ravens lineman Michael Oher takes the field on Super Bowl Sunday, the Tuohy family will be in the stadium cheering him on. The Tuohys -- the real-life family from “The Blind Side” book by Michael Lewis and movie -- took Oher into their home when he was just a teenager and introduced him to football, part of the reason he’ll be competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans.
Family patriarch Sean Tuohy -- a former college basketball star who now owns a dozen restaurants and is part of the Memphis Grizzlies telecast -- is from New Orleans, where he went to high school with Lewis. Sean and his wife Leigh Anne, played by Sandra Bullock in the 2009 movie, own a house there.
“We've got a huge sign in our garage that says: 'We believe in miracles,' " he told The Associated Press. "For other people, it may be hard to understand that. For us, it's easy."
The “Blind Side” family (as they’ve come to be known) helped Oher nurture his football skills, which eventually led to a scholarship at Ole Miss. Oher was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009 and has started every game in his four-year NFL career.
"To me, when I look at Michael, the only downside of it is, you sit there and go, If someone as immensely talented as Michael Oher, that society pretty much didn't value, almost falls through the cracks, can you imagine who gets left behind?" Leigh Anne Tuohy said. "So you sit there and go, 'How many kids are out there that if given a chance can be a Michael Oher.'"
For all the fanfare, though, Oher is sick of talking about the movie that made him a household name.
“I’m tired of the movie. I’m here to play football,” he said during a media scrum in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. He cited inaccuracies in the movie that portrayed him as stupid. “Football is what got me here, and the movie, it wasn’t me. I always knew how to play football growing up. It was different personalities, stuff like that. Playing football is what got me to this point.”
Still, the success of the movie has allowed the “Blind Side” family to start a charity called Making It Happen, which offers financial support to kids growing up below the poverty line or in unstable homes. Sometimes they’re even joined by the Bullock, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Mrs. Tuohy.
"We all can invest time, and that's made Michael, us investing time in this young man and loving him," Leigh Anne Tuohy said. "That's given him the character, not the check. You need it to go hand-in-hand if it can, but we're all capable of investing time."