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Freeney: Tell Oher I'll Be Waiting


Football and movie fans alike are about to gain much more insight into the life of Ravens offensive tackle [Michael Oherinternal-link-placeholder-0] with the nationwide opening of "The Blind Side," the big-screen adaptation of the eponymous book written by Michael Lewis.

One would think Oher would be excited about the hoopla surrounding a project about his life that stars Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock.

The only thing Oher is excited for this weekend, however, is cashing in on words spoken just over a year ago.

When Lewis was writing "The Blind Side," which chronicles Oher's rise from poverty to the NFL, he closed with a story about an encounter with Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.

Lewis told Freeney about Oher, then a 6-foot-4, 325-pound former Ole Miss offensive tackle who was waiting to hear his name called in the 2009 NFL Draft. Oher publicly claimed that he was ready to take on Freeney, one of the NFL's elite pass rushers and perhaps the best in the game.

Freeney patiently listened to what Lewis had to say, thought about it, and made one simple statement.

"You tell Michael Oher I'll be waiting for him," Freeney said.

Freeney won't have to wait much longer with the Colts coming to Baltimore this weekend.

As if to remain free of all distractions, Oher doesn't even plan on catching the movie – yet.

"I'm not curious, and I'm not in any hurry to see it," Oher said. "I will watch it eventually, I'm sure, but we have a football game to prepare for."

Leading up to this Friday's opening, questions about the "The Blind Side" have flown at Oher from all directions. Commercials have dominated the airwaves, especially during the past few weeks of NFL games.

As his adoptive parents, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (McGraw and Bullock) were busy promoting the movie, Oher remained completely on task.

His focus impressed head coach **John Harbaugh**.

"I think he's proud of where he's come from and what he's been able to accomplish – the Tuohy's as his family and what they mean to him," Harbaugh explained. "But I also think, like all of us, he wants to move on and move forward with his life and what he's going to accomplish going forward. That's really the story to me, to us.

"It's a great motivational story for anybody, but at the same time, what is he going to do from here on out? That's the thing we're interested in, and that's kind of where his thoughts are."

Oher's story is certainly inspiring.

The son of a drug-addicted mother, he was one of 13 children. His biological father was absentee and eventually found murdered after being thrown off an overpass in Memphis.

Oher bounced around to multiple foster homes and schools before a friend's father, on whose floor Oher had been sleeping for weeks, took him to the tony Briarcrest Christian School. There, the football coach pushed to admit Oher because of the institution's faith-based environment.

With a scholarship in hand, Oher worked hard to raise his grades high enough to participate in athletics, where he stood out in football as a 350-pound monster.

Soon, the Tuohys stepped in when they offered Oher the chance to live with their family, which includes daughter Collins and son Sean, Jr.

"He was a good kid when he came to our house," said Sean Tuohy, a former standout basketball player at the University of Mississippi and now a radio analyst for the Memphis Grizzlies and owner of several fast-food restaurants. "He was incredibly intelligent when he came to our house and of course incredibly athletic. We didn't have anything to do with all of that. All we did, as my wife said, was make sure he was fed and watered and had a nice place to sleep. Sometimes that's all kids need and they don't get it."

Oher eventually attended Ole Miss, where he made the chancellor's honor roll and became one of the best linemen in the country.

"I'm never ashamed of where I came from," said Oher. "Where I came from, a lot of people don't make it out. It made me a tougher person and a better player."

Still, without having seen the movie, Oher gives the book mixed reviews.

"I read it. Some things in the book, I didn't like," he stated. "It happened, and those are things you have to live with. You just have to keep growing every day."

At this point, Oher has grown into an anchor on the Ravens' offensive line, where started seven games at right tackle and two games on the left.

Oher will be at right tackle on Sunday when Baltimore hosts the Colts, so he won't be protecting quarterback [Joe Flaccointernal-link-placeholder-0]'s blind side this time. But that's not to say he won't see Freeney.

"He's a great player," Oher said. "He has all the moves and is relentless. He hasn't been stopped this year. I just have to keep my technique and work hard all game. You just have to stay focused and keep your head on straight and come to work every day."

As for the movie, Oher doesn't think his character, played by actor Quinton Aaron, will raise his profile. Then again, how would he know if he never sees it?

"I think I'll be the same," said Oher. "People don't recognize me now, and I don't think they will next month."

NOTE:Keep an eye out for an exclusive picture from Ravens team photographer Shawn Hubbard in the closing credits featuring Oher, Ray Lewis and Antwan Barnes running out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium. It's the same picture in this article.

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