Like many people across the country, he formed an impression of Michael Oher, the main character portrayed in the blockbuster movie.
But as Osemele quickly found out since moving into a nearby locker, that ain’t Michael Oher.
“He’s nothing like that,” Osemele said. “I can’t even imagine Mike being like the guy that they portrayed on the movie.”
There will be millions of people watching Super Bowl XLVII who aren’t big football fans. But many of them will probably know Oher. They just don’t know him like they think they do.
“This may come as a shock, but they tend to embellish things in Hollywood,” center Matt Birk deadpanned. “Real life Mike Oher is better.”
In the movie, Oher is portrayed as somewhat slow-witted, lethargic and not athletic. The film suggests he didn’t know the basics of football before he was taken in by the well-to-do Tuohy family and put into shoulder pads.
The lack of respect of his sports know-how is the primary reason why Oher said he doesn’t like the movie.
“The movie showed me not doing something so well that got me here, something I’ve always understood,” Oher said. “Everything else is good, but them showing me not knowing how to play football, that’s what upsets me the most.”
Part of the reason why it touches a nerve with Oher is that in reality he’s a student of the game and an extremely hard worker. It’s a cliché that a hard-working player is the first one in the building and last to leave. But Birk, another weight-room junkie, said it’s true with Oher.
“Once in a while I’ll beat him into the office and I’ll be like, ‘Hey Mike, you’re slipping man. I got ya today,’” Birk said with a laugh. “It really bugs him. Mike busts his tail and that’s why he’s so successful. It’s easy to root for a guy like that.”
Oher likes to keep his head down and focus on football. He often says he’s just trying to get better every single day. But there’s more to Oher than just pigskin.
He’s not a loud or boisterous person. But he’s not reclusive either. He’s constantly playing games with teammates in the locker room and often joking around with them. Oher’s teammates described him as a laid-back guy who is easy to talk to.
“He’s a lot more confident, he’s way more intelligent than they portrayed him to be,” Osemele said.
“He’s got one of the best senses of humor of anybody on the team,” Birk said. “He loves to laugh, loves to have fun. He’s really really sharp, especially when it comes to making fun of a certain guy or something.”
“In the movie, he’s so nice and everything. Not saying he’s mean, but it was just a bit too soft,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “He has a very dry sarcasm to the point where sometimes you’re not sure if he’s joking or he’s being serious.”
Even Oher’s size is overblown in the movie.
The film makes him out to be an extraordinary giant, which he is by general human standards. But by NFL offensive tackle standards, Oher’s 6-foot-4, 315-pound size is about average if not a little on the smaller end. He has a trimmer, athletic build than many players at his position.
“The movie makes him seem like he’s a real big guy,” said McKinnie, who measures in at 6-foot-8, 354-pounds. “That’s why a lot of people think I’m him. Fans always think I’m Michael Oher.”
Oher is in his fourth year and the media’s questions about his movie fame had largely died down, partly because he’s often stamped them out. But the movie was once again a hot topic with the international press covering the Super Bowl.
The news these days is more about how Oher has bounced around between left and right tackle, how he’s been a reliable player that has never missed a start and how he’s headed into the final year of his rookie contract. The focus is on football, which Oher likes.
“I just love football,” he said. “Football is what got me here. That’s the reason I’m here. Everything else is second.”
But with the Super Bowl spotlight on, casual fans will be rooting for Oher in the biggest game of his life with his movie and book character in mind.
So what does Oher say to those fans?
“Continue to cheer for me,” he said. “I understand there are a lot of people I’ve inspired across the world. I’m trying to embrace that a lot better than I have in the past.”
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