The world was introduced to NFL player Michael Oher when his life was depicted in the 2009 Academy Award winning film The Blind Side (based on the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game). His story captivated audiences, and actress Sandra Bullock even won an Oscar for her role as Oher’s adoptive parent in the blockbuster hit. Today, the Baltimore Raven is releasing a book of his own, a memoir called I Beat the Odds, sharing his story, but this time, from his perspective. Michael sits down and talks to us about the part of his life story that we haven’t yet seen and shares his Super Bowl prediction.
We know a lot about you from the Blind Side, but what will we learn about you from your book? What would you want people to know about you that we might not have necessarily known from watching the movie or reading Michael Lewis’ book?
One of the main things I wanted people to know about my book was that I wasn’t dumb—and neither are a lot of other kids who struggle in school. But for plenty of kids, our home lives are so messed up that we don’t have anyone showing us the importance of applying ourselves in school or helping us with assignments we don’t understand, so we just get lost in the shuffle and labeled as “dumb.” What those kids really need is someone who can teach them how to learn, how to study, how to complete an assignment or reason through multiple-choice answers on a test. A lot of times, it’s just taken for granted that kids have those skills when they really don’t. Once I learned how to study, it was like the whole world opened up for me in terms of realizing what I could do.
Was there a specific moment that prompted you to decide to write your own memoir?
There wasn’t one specific incident so much as just a sort of gradual realization that there was more to the story that needed to be told. The letters I was getting from kids coming from backgrounds like mine or families that had taken in kids like me made me realize the need for someone to really step up and be a voice for kids in the foster care system and others who are desperate for a better life than the one they’ve been dealt. I just started to see that maybe my voice was important for giving them hope and showing that their dreams are possible.
How did you find the telling of your own story to be while working with writer Don Yaeger? What more did you discover about yourself through this process?
The deeper we got into the project, the more I realized I really had something to say. At first, I was pretty sure I’d run out of words long before page 50. But the more we talked and visited my old neighborhoods and interviewed people, the more I found myself wanting to speak up and share my thoughts. That really surprised me, since I’ve always been pretty shy, so that was kind of a neat discovery.
What would our readers find surprising to know about you?
I always thought of myself as a basketball player more than a football player. I love football and I loved baseball, too, but I saw myself on the court more than the field. Eventually though, I realized that my size, shape, and movement style were better for football, so I went down that road instead.
Also, I’m kind of a neat freak so I am always walking around the house with Windex and paper towels and I iron all my clothes—even my t-shirts.
What are some of your passions, hobbies and interests outside of football?
I love movies and I love cars. If there is a car I really want, but I know it isn’t responsible for me to buy it, I’ll sometimes go out and get a remote control model of it. This way, I can still feel like I’m racing around but I’m not blowing a bunch of paychecks on something that will sit in my garage most of the time.
If you were made a benevolent dictator of the world, what is the first thing you would change?
You guys are crazy! I’m going to have to think a minute about that. If I were King of Michael Land, I would… make movie theater seats bigger and with more legroom. Airplane seats, too. I’d also make extra-long mattresses standard in hotel rooms. It’s tough being a tall guy in a regular-sized world!
What is your number one guilty pleasure?
Again, probably cars. I think always having to rely on public transportation growing up made me place a lot of value on having my own wheels. But, like I said, I really do try to be smart in how I spend my money, so I try to just appreciate them from a distance.
I also like to go to the barber to get a straight-razor shave. There’s something so relaxing about getting lathered up and the clean feeling of a fresh shave. I always try to look neat and put-together, even if I’m in gym clothes, and having a nice shave is a big part of that.
Favorite music you’re loving right now?
My iPod always has a bunch of different stuff on it. Lil’ Wayne has some music that I like to use when I’m working out, but I really like to listen to a mix of things.
What’s something that cracks you up every time?
I love Subway. They are absolutely my favorite fast-food restaurant. Whenever I walk in, the person behind the counter usually looks at me like, “I think I know who you are but I can’t quite figure it out.” Sometimes they’ll figure it out before they get to the end of my sandwich; but other times, they’ll ring me up and I’ll be sitting down to eat, then I’ll see them go to the back and get the other employees to come out and look at me. They’ll all whisper to each other trying to figure out who I am and, when one finally does, they all get really excited like, “Hooray! I just fixed Michael Oher’s sandwich!” It always makes me laugh when they finally place me and get all excited but try to be subtle about it.
Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?
Are you ready for the big game? Join us and special co-host former New York Giant Amani Toomer for the "1st Look Big Game special" this Saturday after "Saturday Night Live" on NBC!