Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher visits a Salisbury elementary school to promote his new memoir
Far from an idyllic fairy tale, much of Michael Oher’s childhood was spent on the streets of the Memphis projects. Yet, at age 25, he’s a national sensation. As No. 74 for the Baltimore Ravens, Oher is a hero to innumerable fans. As the subject of Best Picture Oscar nominee The Blind Side, he is an inspiration to even more. Now, the 6’4” 313 lb. offensive lineman has tackled the role of best-selling co-author with his newly released memoir, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond.
Coastal Style caught up with Oher in February at the Prince Street Elementary School in Salisbury. Oher had gone there to see the kids as part of his promotional book tour.
CSM: Though you come from very humble beginnings, you currently receive an amount of attention few could ever imagine. Is it ever difficult to maintain perspective in the face of such glaring attention?
MO: The truth is that I don’t really think of myself as famous, because the moment you think, “Wow! I made it!” you run the risk of not trying anymore. I don’t ever want to lose the drive that has gotten me this far. When you know what it’s like to see zero in your bank account, you don’t ever, EVER want to go back there, so I just keep focusing on doing my job each day.
In terms of being a role model, though, that’s the one area where I do have to remind myself that I’m kind of in the public eye. I still think it’s a little crazy sometimes that people look up to me, but I get it, too, because of playing in the pros, the movie and my book — and I don’t take that lightly. I try to make sure my actions are something that would be positive if a kid saw me. Like, if I go out to dinner with my teammates, I try not to order anything alcoholic because I don’t ever want a kid to make an irresponsible decision [because he thinks he’s] being like me.
Good role models are hard to find, especially for kids in the foster-care system who want to look to someone like them who made it out. I just want to be sure I’m doing my part to give them hope and to model good choices.
CSM: You’ve accomplished more than most will in a lifetime, yet you’re not even 26 years old. With such an incredible resume, do you feel there are mountains yet to climb?
MO: I’m really proud of everything I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of so far, so I just focus on how blessed I am and enjoy the “right now.” I mean, I take my job really seriously because I know that there are a hundred guys who would happily step up and take my place if I slacked off, so I don’t like thinking too much about what’s next because I don’t want to ever lose my focus.
That being said, someday I would love to have a wife and kids; you know, a family of my own. I’m not there yet and probably won’t be for quite a while… but someday. Aside from that, I would really love to go into some kind of broadcasting or doing work as a commentator.
CSM: Do you get to spend time with your family, the Tuohys?
MO: Of course! They have a condo in Baltimore and come up for most of my games. Collins and S.J. hang out at my place in Baltimore sometimes, and that’s a lot of fun, too. I also go home for a lot of holidays, and sometimes bring teammates or college friends with me. Like any young adult, I enjoy my independence, but I also love to see my family whenever possible, and we make time for that whenever we can.
CSM: There’s been a lot of publicity about the way in which your early football career was depicted in The Blind Side. Was that the movie’s biggest omission, or is there something else?
MO: It’s definitely my life before the Tuohys, in the foster-care system. That’s the most significant thing left out of the movie. In I Beat the Odds, we start at the beginning and show that I truly had a desire to get out of the projects.
The football thing also kinda bothers me. Those scenes where you see me learning the game of football, like I never played it before, that’s just not who I was. I know they had to write the script that way to make it good storytelling for a movie format, but I had really studied the game of football from the time I was a kid because I knew that sports were going to be my ticket to a better life.
CSM: After spending all week protecting Joe Flacco from 300 lb. freight trains in shoulder pads, what are your favorite leisure-time activities?
MO: I love movies, and I love cars. If there is a car I really want but I know isn’t responsible for me to buy, I’ll sometimes go out and get a remote-control model of it. This way, I can still feel like I’m racing around, but I’m not blowing a bunch of paychecks on something that will sit in my garage most of the time.
CSM: Have you seen changes in yourself from the time you first entered the public eye?
MO: Since my book, I Beat the Odds, came out, I’ve realized that I’m actually much more outgoing than I thought I was. I think part of it is that my confidence has grown so much because I’ve finally accepted that my story is worth telling and that my voice can make a difference. That idea is something you have to become comfortable with, and it took me awhile to feel good about standing up and being my best self in public, in front of people, instead of just trying to be my best on the football field or in the classroom.
I’ll probably never be the most talkative guy in an interview, but it’s become a lot easier for me to chat with reporters and fans than it used to be. And I’m really happy about that, because that’s the whole point of writing this book in the first place: putting my message out there so that other kids can hear it and get hope from it.
Michael Oher, Baltimore Raven’s offensive lineman Number 74, pens his life’s story in the memoir, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond. The book is co-authored by Don Yaeger, former associate editor for Sports Illustrated, and also coauthor of five New York Times best sellers. “I Beat the Odds” is available at retail booksellers and online from Amazon.com.
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