'The Blind Side' Follows the Life of a Top NFL Prospect

Michael Lewis' book chronicles the life first-round NFL draft prospect Michael Oher

'The Blind Side' Follows the Life of a Top NFL Prospect

“A lot of teams didn't bring it up [his past]. They just told me that they knew about it. They just told me they just wanted to talk football. It's all about playing football and just becoming an NFL player.”

– On Michael Oher, posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, February 20, 2009

Michael Oher is a first-round NFL draft prospect from Mississippi who could play left or right tackle depending on the team he is drafted by. You might recognize his name from The Blind Side, a book about his life by Michael Lewis. The book, which partially chronicles Oher's impoverished upbringing and educational challenges (he has several learning disabilities), has recently been optioned by Hollywood to be adapted into a movie. Last month Oher had an extensive meeting with the Chicago Bears, who are looking to replace right tackle John Tait. However, right tackle is not Oher’s natural position, and this was all before the Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler.

The Blind Side is an attention-grabbing book and is now out in paperback ($13.99, Norton & Company). Berkeley-based author Lewis looks at the obscure structure of football, examining the importance of unsung players that determine the outcome of games more than the showy exploits of point scorers. There is little mention to characters like Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens in this book. Instead Lewis looks at the evolution of the left tackle, the most important position on any professional football team. He starts the book by detailing the infamous Joe Theismann sack, in which Lawrence Taylor snapped Theismann’s leg between the ankle and knee. Theismann’s “blind side” was not well protected and this was the quarterback’s final play of his professional career. Theismann never saw Taylor coming and now walks with a limp.

In examining the evolution and importance of the left tackle, a hard-to-find superhero combining 300-plus pounds of meat with the body control of a Russian ballerina, Lewis found Oher a homeless Memphis ghetto kid. Oher's father was not involved in his upbringing (and was murdered when he was a junior in high school), and his mother was addicted to crack cocaine. Oher was adopted and taken in by a rich, white, evangelical, family then sent to a Christian high school where their daughter attended. Once on the football team and gaining attention, dozens of college coaches came courting Oher. The young, impressionable football player ultimately decides to attend Ole Miss, the alma mater of the same family that rescued him from the streets – even though Oher’s academic eligibility was in question.

Lewis weaves together a nice story, but skates softly over the elephant in the room when it comes to young men with these rare body types. The ideas of exploitation and college corruption are confronted, but the complexities of these relationships were only explored skin deep. With the NFL draft quickly approaching, and Oher’s name to be called on day one, The Blind Side deserves revisiting. What will happen to a kid with a rough past once he has the money and pressures of the NFL on his shoulders, and now that Ole Miss has used him will the school still be there for him at the next level?

The NFL draft has been compared to a modern day slave auction by academics and bloggers alike. Players are measured, weighed, poked, and prodded. And even given an intelligence test called the Wonderlic. Oher scored a very low 19 out of a possible 50 on the test. Although NFL teams have claimed they are impressed with his maturity they do wonder if he would be overwhelmed by the money he is about to make. After reading The Blind Side, I think it all depends on the team that selects him. He will need stability and calm coaching. Until the recent Jay Cutler trade from Denver to Chicago it was a lock the Bears would’ve taken Oher with the No. 18 pick, a team I think he could do well with. Now, several people think Oher might end up in Cincinnati, a team rife with felons. Hopefully he will go to the Tennessee Titans so he can be close to his adopted family. I just hope he gets with a team without too many characters. I just hope Oher doesn’t become a Dallas Cowboy.

The NFL draft will be on ESPN and the NFL Network starting at 2:30pm on April 25. The Blind Side is on bookshelves now.

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