One moment changed the Tuohy family’s lives forever. It was the moment mom Leigh Anne Tuohy told her husband to turn the car around, so she could talk to Michael Oher.
The true story of this moment and artistic license moments in “The Blind Side” were discussed by Oher’s sister Collins Tuohy during her speech at The Rotary Sunrise Sunset Gala.
While the Tuohy family finds the movie portraying their adoption of the now Baltimore Ravens player very accurate, there are a few major differences between their experience and the movie.
The main one is that while adopting Oher was a fast-paced process, taking him into their home was not the immediate decision it was in the movie, Tuohy said.
While the scene where Leigh Ann Tuohy tells her husband to “turn around” is accurate, they did not immediately take Oher into their home. Instead they gave him a ride to a bus stop.
Collins Tuohy said Oher had taken a bus every day and then walked a quarter mile on a busy road to get to school.
“He was walking the streets in Memphis, Tenn., without an ounce of value placed upon him,” Collins Tuohy said.
Later, immense value was placed on him for his athletic ability.
“Our message ... is not to adopt a 6-6, 320-pound kid ... but you can do something for someone,” Tuohy said.
After finding out a little more about his situation, the Tuohys invited Oher to live with them, and later legally adopted him.
“It really was a smooth transition. We didn’t have a lot of time to assess it. He had very immediate needs, and we didn’t even have enough time to fill them all. So, everybody got to work really quickly and all of a sudden we look up and he’s an all-American ... We had so many things that happened so quickly that it was not this big transition,” Collins Tuohy said in an interview.
During her speech, Tuohy also said her mom is even more passionate and full of personality in person than her portrayal in the movie. To highlight this fact, Collins Tuohy told a story of an encounter between her mom and Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco in an elevator.
“So, he’s standing there (on the elevator) with my mom. And she says, ‘Hey, I’m Leigh Ann Tuohy. I’m Micheal Oher’s mom. He says, ‘It’s really nice to meet you.’ She said, ‘Yeah, you take way too long to throw the football.’”
Tuohy said her mom was “awesome.”
In telling her story about being Oher’s sister through adoption, Tuohy said she has found that many children are in similar situations to those Oher faced.
“And for some reason God just chose us to be the ones to be featured,” Tuohy said. “It just seemed like it was what we all needed to do. There was no thinking, there was no hesitating. We loved him, he loved us.”
She said there was not a lot of discussion about how to move forward — adoption was just a natural progression.
Other differences between the film and the family’s experience include Tuohy and Oher are actually the same age, and Tuohy never placed volleyball. Oher attended the same private school as Tuohy, but it was renamed in the movie.
However, Oher had only been at Briarcrest Christian School a short time when the Tuohy family took him into their home.
“It takes about five seconds to fall in love with Michael. He has a very charismatic, warm personality. He kind of draws people in,” Tuohy said.
Even though Oher has moved to Baltimore, Tuohy said she still sees him about every other week. She said the distance in miles has not really changed the adoptive siblings’ close relationship.
“We talk on the phone a lot more, but that’s probably the only thing that’s really changed,” Tuohy said in an interview.
Younger brother S.J. recently joined Oher in Baltimore to attend Loyola University.
While speaking at the Sunrise Gala, Collins Tuohy said there was some slight separation anxiety when Oher moved because she was always used to living near him.
Tuohy said at least one family member is present at all of Oher’s games.
His first professional game was a Monday Night game.
“It was really emotional,” Tuohy said. “People just don’t understand how hard he has worked to get to that point, so I think the people that did — they were there. Draft day and his first real regular game as a Raven were probably two of the most exciting things that have happened.”
The success of the movie and the notoriety that the family members now have has not changed who they are, Tuohy said.
“None of this has changed any of us except for the fact that now we have this great platform to be able to share our experience,” Tuohy said.
The Tuohys are using this platform to promote awareness and raise funds for adoption through the Making It Happen Foundation. Oher also has started his own foundation.
She said the difficult situations or negativity that may have surfaced during the process was not something she or her brother S.J. really knew about at the time.
“We have faced some situations in the past probably two or three years that have been eye-opening, but having someone tell you that what you did was not right just makes you want to tell that many more people that it was right, and this is why it was right,” Tuohy said.
Tuohy said most of the people she has encountered have been supportive and receptive to the Tuohy story.
She said the story is something that needs to told.
Tuohy said many children are not often highlighted, and are aging out of the system.