Twelve years ago this month, Leigh Anne Tuohy, her husband and her son saw Michael Oher walking alone on a Memphis street, in 30 degree weather, wearing shorts. They turned around and offered him a ride, and that was the beginning of an incredible relationship.
The real-life story plays out in the movie, "The Blind Side"'; an upscale family adopts an orphaned teen. "When Michael came to live with us, he didn't know his name, his birthdate, he had never had a bed, lived in a home, he had 26 foster homes," Tuohy told Lanier High School students Friday. "He had never been giving a Christmas gift, had never been told 'I love you' by anyone in the whole world, ever."
With the help of his new family, Oher graduated from high school and played football for Ole Miss. "I'm blessed to have all that. Other stuff going on, I came a long way," Oher said during an interview at that time.
Then, in 2009, he became the 23rd pick in the first round of the NFL draft for the Baltimore Ravens. He's now starting right tackle for the Ravens.
Tuohy told Lanier students that if they believe in themselves and ask a teacher or another trusted adult for help, doors will open for them.
She also asks all of us to keep our eyes and hearts open. "You don't have to be able to adopt a 350-pound African American child, but there is something you can do. Don't just sit there, get in the game," she says.
Tuohy's pep talk had a profound effect. Senior Kentrell Williams talked to her personally. "She was asking me about academic wise, athletic, as far as my college experience. Where would I like to go," he says, adding that he plans to study engineering in college.
Student Ladarius Smoots couldn't help but embrace her. "Her being prestigious and helping out really inspired me to help people out. I respect her for that," he says.
Tuohy now tours the country speaking to different groups, but she takes Sunday off to watch Oher play football at Ravens Stadium.
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