By David Ginsburg Associated Press
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher is enjoying the kind of rookie season that might require Hollywood to make a sequel to a soon-to-be-released movie about his life.
Drafted with the 23rd overall pick out of Mississippi, Oher has started every game for the Ravens (4-3). The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder played right tackle for the first four games, then replaced an injured Jared Gaither at left tackle for two weeks before returning to the right side last Sunday against Denver.
“To come in here and play at a high level, that’s always impressive. I don’t care where you went to school,” center Matt Birk said Wednesday. “There’s a mental and physical adjustment playing in the NFL. Physically, he’s extremely gifted. And he plays with a great passion.”
Oher has performed exceptionally well, but the path he took to get to the pros would be Hollywood-worthy even if he failed to get off the bench in Baltimore.
Oher’s odyssey was detailed in the best seller “The Blind Side” by Michael Lewis. Oher received little attention from his parents and eventually became homeless. Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy took the teenager into their Memphis home, eventually adopted him and provided him with a means of getting through high school to qualify for college.
Oher became a four-year starter and All-American at Mississippi. A movie based on the book, featuring Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, will open in theaters later this month.
“I am never ashamed of where I came from. Where I came from, a lot of people don’t make it out,” Oher said. “I think it has made me a tougher person, a better player.”
Oher hasn’t seen the movie, but anticipates his opinion of the film won’t differ much from his take on the book.
“I read it, and some things in the book I didn’t like and stuff like that,” he said. “But in the end of the day, it all happened and it’s one of those things you have got to live with — and just keep growing every day.”
Which is exactly what the 23-year-old Oher is doing on the football field.
“I have great respect for Mike. I don’t know his whole story, but I certainly know I respect him, just the way he comes in here every day,” Birk, 33, said. “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 jokes around with me because I’m slightly older than he is. He’s just a joy to have around.”
Guard Chris Chester, who lines up next to Oher on the right side, said, “He’s ahead of the curve, definitely, but I think that’s just a tribute to Mike’s maturity, his talent and his ability. He’s done a great job of beginning to realize his potential.”
Despite being the subject of a book, the focus in a major movie and the butt of many jokes in the locker room, Oher remains the quiet, businesslike player he was when the Ravens drafted him in April.
“He seems to be handling everything fine,” Birk said. “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.”
The release of the movie probably won’t inflate Oher’s humble opinion of himself.
“I think I will be the same,” Oher said. “People don’t recognize me now and I don’t think they will in the next month.”