These life stories may contain descriptions of childhood trauma and abuse, as well as images, voices and names of people now deceased. If you need help, you can find contact details for some relevant support services on our support page.

African American National Football League (NFL) star, Michael Oher (b. 1986) was in foster care as a child.  

Oher was born into an impoverished family in Memphis, Tennessee. He was one of twelve children born to Michael Sr. and Denise. Denise struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. Michael Sr. was frequently incarcerated and eventually murdered in prison.  

Oher was in and out of foster care from the age of seven. He attended eleven different schools before the ninth grade, but was rarely in class. As a teenager, Oher was homeless and often slept rough. At one point, he was sleeping on the floor at a house owned by Tony Henderson whose son attended Briarcrest, a private Christian school.  

Henderson helped Oher get accepted into Briarcrest where a wealthy businessman, Sean Tuohy, noticed him. He and his wife, Leigh Anne, took Oher in as one of the family, and later adopted him (although this was contested by Michael Oher in 2023). The couple had a young son, Sean Jr., and a daughter, Collins. Oher has expressed his gratitude for the family’s unconditional love and support. 

Where I’m from a lot of people don’t make it out, you know, I’m the only one that I know that made it out… To be able to meet a family like the Tuohys, for them to take me in, knowing where I came from, things like that, shows what type of people they are, what type of heart that they have… They just took me in like I was a part of their family, that’s what I love about them… You know it showed me that it is possible to be loved (Schwarze). 

With his emotional and material needs now met, Oher’s focus turned to football. 

I could focus on school, and my grades started to go up. I was eating, so I could focus on other things rather than being hungry, that’s when I really started to excel (Johnson). 

Oher accepted a scholarship from the University of Mississippi, where he played for the Rebels. He graduated in 2009 with a degree in criminal justice.  

Oher’s life is the subject of a 2006 book by Michael Lewis and the 2009 movie The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock. In 2012, he published his own book, I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, which became a New York Times best-seller. 

Oher has since voiced criticisms of the film. He has said that the film incorrectly portrays his personality, leaves out major details in his life, and brushes over many of his personal struggles. He feels that the film exaggerates Leigh Anne Tuohy’s role in his success as a football player, leading to him being negatively judged by the public. He explains, “They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am” (Lazzurus). 

Oher was drafted as a first-round pick in the NFL in 2009. For the first three years of his professional football career, he played for the Baltimore Ravens. In 2013, the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl XLVII.  

Oher then went on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers. He retired from football in 2016. 

Oher first met his wife, Tiffany Roy while the couple were in college. The couple have two sons, Kobi and MJ, and two daughters, Kierstin, and Naivi.  

Michael Oher is a strong advocate for disadvantaged young people. His foundation, Beat the Odds, Inc. is dedicated to “helping kids from hard places achieve their dreams.” He is also involved with his family’s youth foundation, Making It Happen, and dedicates his time to volunteering at foster care organisations.  

There are so many other people out there like me, so I have an obligation to continue to show them the way in” (Johnson). 

One of Oher’s most recent projects is Good Deeds, an app enabling local community members to give or request material items. The idea came from Oher’s observation that “Supplies never got to the people,” (Johnson) in the aftermath of a series of deadly tornadoes across Tennessee in 2020. 

As a mental health advocate, Oher encourages people to reach out to others to talk about their feelings. 

I bottled so much stuff up throughout my life. I carried that with me and I think it hurt me in the long run. That may be the only thing holding you back from being where you want to be — talking to somebody (Johnson).

In August 2023, Michael Oher filed a lawsuit in Shelby County, Tennessee against the Tuohy family, “claiming that he had never actually been adopted and had been tricked into signing away his decision-making powers so the family could make millions of dollars off his life story” (Nerkar).

Instead of being adopted, Oher claims that instead he unknowingly signed a conservatorship, a legal arrangement whereby a court-appointed person manages the financial and other affairs of a child or person with disabilities. According to American journalist, Elizabeth Spiers, the Tuohys say they chose a conservatorship because Oher, at 18, was too old to be adopted. There was, however, the option for an adult adoption, says Spiers.


de la Rosa, Poch. “The Life And Career Of Michael Oher”. Pro Football History, 23 Oct 2022. 

Garvey, Marianne. “Michael Oher, athlete who inspired ‘The Blind Side,’ marries longtime love”. CNN, 9 Nov 2022. 

Johnson, Alyssa. “Michael Oher, Who Inspired ‘Blind Side’, Opens Up About Mental Health: ‘I’m Still Dealing with Trauma’”. People, 5 March 2021. 

Lazzurus, Lucy. “Why The Real Michael Oher Had A Problem With His Portrayal In ‘The Blind Side’”. The Things, 11 Feb 2022. 

Nerkar, Santul. “‘Blind Side’ Player Says He Was Conned With Adoption Promise.” The New York Times, 14 August 2023. 

Paudel, Barsha. “Michael Oher Bio: Family, Career, Quotes & Documentary.” Players Bio, 6 June 2021. 

Schwarze, Shanna. “NFL player inspires Hollywood.” CNN, 13 Nov 2009. 

Image available here.