'Blind Side's' Tuohys urge people to 'turn around' and make a differenceSean and Leigh Anne Tuohy's effort to rescue a young man has become one of the best-known stories in America
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy’s inspirational message to an audience of young basketball players Wednesday at the Corn Palace was simple.
Turn around, and make a difference in the life of another.
The Touhys’ effort to rescue a young man has become one of the best-known stories in America, thanks to Michael Lewis’ best selling book “The Blind Side” and the Academy Award-winning motion picture of the same name.
The Tuohys were keynote speakers at the Mike Miller Classic Kick-Off Banquet. They spoke to members of the basketball teams who will compete today and Friday in the Mike Miller Classic. Games begin at noon today at the Corn Palace, and proceeds from the event will go to the Mike Miller Foundation.
Sean Tuohy Jr., better known as “S.J.” in the film, will play in the classic with the Briarcrest Saints of Memphis, Tenn. He is a senior at the non-denominational Christian school.
Leigh Anne’s command to her husband to “turn around” the family car changed the life of desperately poor Michael Oher and the Tuohy family.
The Tuohys eventually adopted Oher, who went on to become a successful high school and college athlete and an NFL lineman with the Baltimore Ravens.
The decision to help Oher wasn’t calculated, said Leigh Anne, who spotted Oher wandering alone, cold and underdressed in the wrong neighborhood.
“As a mother, all my alarms went off,” she said. “Michael’s needs were vast and huge.”
Oher allowed the Tuohys to drive him to an express bus stop that first night, but in subsequent nights, the Touhys took him into their home and hearts.
“Here was a kid who had almost fallen through the cracks,” Leigh Anne said. “We challenge you to understand that everyone has value. There is something everyone can do. What matters is that you step up and do the right thing, whether you’re in ninth grade or 75 years old.
“All we did was to offer hope, love and opportunity. There are Michael Ohers in every city in the United States of America.”
Sean Tuohy met Mike Miller, he said, when Sean worked as a commentator for the Memphis Grizzlies. He joked that he promised to speak at Miller’s basketball event if Miller quit stealing his sandwiches during team flights. Miller, a Mitchell High School graduate, is now with the Miami Heat.
Sean Tuohy was portrayed in the “Blind Side” movie by county music superstar Tim McGraw. Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne’s direct and compassionate nature won the actress an Oscar.
The Tuohys said the movie was largely accurate, and while it did change their lives, it has also given them a platform to encourage others.
Sean Tuohy credited Oher’s hard work for his success. Oher took the opportunity he was offered, Tuohy said, and ran with it.
“We get the credit, and that’s not the truth. All we did was buy him a shirt.”
The Touhys said inspiration can be found anywhere. They were impressed by the resiliency shown in Minot, N.D., in the aftermath of recent flooding.
The pressures created by the catastrophe threatened to tear the community apart, Sean Tuohy said, but the community’s response to the emergency drew people closer together.
“Don’t wait on a flood,” he said. “Band together now. Get in the spirit, and there’s a good chance you can have a Christmas every single day.”