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  • Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

    Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher – the inspiration of the movie "The Blind Side" – answers questions Tuesday during Super Bowl media day.

  • Michael Oher

No longer on 'The Blind Side'

Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 9C
Last Modified: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 - 7:30 am

NEW ORLEANS – He's a real person. He's not some cartoon giant being dragged out of a cold fog by Sandra Bullock in a scene that made America cry.

He's a real football player. He's not just some lost soul in oversized pads requiring an on-field pep talk from Bullock before blocking someone in a scene that made America cheer.

When Michael Oher sat down at a ballroom table Thursday with bright eyes, firm handshake and thoughtful answers, one could immediately understand his dislike for the incessant rewinding of a scarred and distant childhood.

The movie was "The Blind Side." Yet, it turns out, it was the main character who has been blindsided.

"I'm tired of the movie," he said earlier this week. "Football is what got me here, and the movie, it wasn't me."

Four years after the $300 million run of a tale about an impoverished black child adopted by a wealthy white family and mentored to football stardom, its real-life inspiration would like to be viewed in real life.

He is no longer Big Mike. He is a Baltimore Raven. He is no longer a man-child who sleeps on a rich family's couch and plays with their son and crashes their car and eventually becomes part of their brood. He is the starting right tackle on an offensive line that will be greatly tested by the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

In navigating a Super Bowl madness that magnifies every crumb of a man's past, he does not want to be seen as a pep talk about compassion or a living poster of perseverance. He wants only to be like the other several dozen teammates in this room, just another big dude on the verge of playing in a big football game.

"It's all been extremely crazy, man," Oher said in his slow Southern drawl. "That's why I play football and don't deal with Hollywood."

The movie, which was based on a book by Michael Lewis, followed Oher's life from his troubled adolescence to his earning a football scholarship at Ole Miss. It received worldwide acclaim and an Academy Award for Bullock, who played Oher's strong-willed adoptive mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy. It is one of those family flicks that many have seen more than once.

Many, but not Oher. He has seen it once.

"It's all I needed to see," he said. "I watch a lot of movies, and I just haven't gotten around back to it."

He adds that, "People who watch 'The Blind Side,' they're not going to have a chance to get to know me. People I'm close to, as long as they know me, know who I am, I don't have a problem with it."

Oher said his biggest specific problem with the movie isn't about the glamour or glitz, it's about the football. He said its depiction of his early struggles with the basics of the game were wrong. He said he didn't mind being shown as someone struggling with poverty and abandonment. But, goodness, he always knew how to block.

"The movie is great, it's very inspiring to tons of people all over the world, but the main problem I have is with the football part of it," he said. "Sports is all I had growing up, and the movie made me look like I didn't know anything."

Sean Tuohy, Oher's father, understands his son's discomfort.

"He's tired of it, and I can't blame him," said Tuohy in a phone interview. "It's easy for us and everybody looking in, but when you're the object of it, it can get old."

This year, though, the movie even stuck its neck into his football business in an ironic way. The title is a phrase used in football to represent the quarterback's most vulnerable side.

When the quarterback is right-handed, that side is protected by the left tackle, which is considered the most important position on the offensive line and a spot manned by Oher.

Yet in the middle of this season, the "Blind Side" guy was moved out of the blind side, with an inconsistent Oher going to right tackle to accommodate natural left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

The switch was like asking a left-handed pitcher to suddenly throw with his right hand. The adjustment required time, but in the last month, the Ravens' offensive line has helped the offense rack up some of the best numbers in franchise history.

"It's a lot of work, you do a lot of things backward. It's very hard, but you do what you got to do," said Oher.

Which is a good way to describe his journey, which has been lost in the glare of its telling.

"It's incredible, knowing the road I had to travel to get to this point," Oher said. "I've come a long way. It's unbelievable, amazing, what I had to overcome. It's all remarkable."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Bill Plaschke



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