Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy: Michael Oher’s Parents

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Who are Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy? How did they help Michael Oher?

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy are the adoptive parents of Michael Oher in The Blind Side. The Tuohys were a Memphis couple whose children went to school with Michael. They took notice of his struggles, and welcomed him into their home.

Read more about Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and what they did for Michael Oher.

Who Are Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy?

The Blind Side explains how Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy took in a young student named Michael Oher. But the story doesn’t start there.

Before then, Michael used to hang around the basketball courts watching practice. One day, a man named Sean Tuohy saw Michael in the stands and immediately felt a connection with him. Sean could tell Michael was poor and knew he wore the same clothes every day. Sean had grown up poor in Louisiana but now owned 85 chain restaurants and a private jet. He and his wife, Leigh Anne, were pillars in society, and he often donated money to Briarcrest to help students who couldn’t afford the tuition. He figured Michael probably hadn’t eaten, so he went over and offered him help. When Michael refused the offer, Sean put money in his school account to cover lunches for the rest of the year. 

Leigh Anne took a different tack with Michael. After meeting him and seeing that he had no possessions or real home, she took him shopping. That day, Michael and Leigh Anne made a personal connection, and she sort of fell in love with this sweet giant boy. Over the next several months, Michael stayed on the Tuohys’ couch whenever he wasn’t able to make the long trip back to West Memphis. He became one of the family, and Leigh Anne finally decided he would live with them for good. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy officially took Michael in.

Becoming a Star

Michael was a talented basketball player, and before he started to grow into his current size, he practiced day and night in Hurt Village to become the next Michael Jordan. This training made him fast and nimble, and he kept those skills as he grew. But he didn’t have any fire in his belly. When he first joined the football team at Briarcrest, he was afraid to block the other players and was basically ineffective. He spent more of his junior year on the bench. 

But a man named Tom Lemming changed everything when he learned about Michael. Lemming was the premier high school football scout in the nation, and his scouting reports were read by nearly every Division I and II college program. When the Briarcrest coach sent him a tape of Michael chasing down a tiny running back during one game like he was a sprinter, Lemming saw right away that this kid was a freak of nature. He was perfect for the prized position of left tackle, and he told the world about Michael Oher. 

Suddenly, coaches from the top football programs in the country were showing up to watch Michael play. Leigh Anne and Sean were skeptical because of his docile character, but Michael proved that he had aggression in him if he was pushed enough. In the first game of his senior season, he became so fed up with the heckling of a lineman on the other team, he picked the 220-pound player up like he was a doll and carried him off the field. 

Extra training by his coaches helped Michael learn how to play left tackle, and he became one of the best players in the state of Tennessee. Offers were pouring in from different schools, but in the end, he chose to accept a full-ride scholarship to Ole Miss, the alma mater of both Leigh Anne and Sean. The only problem was that his grades had not improved alongside his football skills. He’d been working with a tutor named Sue Mitchell for almost a year and was making more As and Bs than Cs and Ds, but his transcript was so poor, the increase wasn’t enough. 

Sean took Michael to see a psychological examiner to determine whether he had a learning disability. If he did, he could get more time to improve his grades. The examiner determined that Michael had never been taught to read properly but had an amazing gift for memorization. She also learned that his IQ was actually 100-110, which made him average. Because of his average IQ, he was now technically learning below where he should be, and he was certified as having a legitimate learning disability. This diagnosis allowed Michael to take extra classes through an online system to boost his GPA. Finally, the summer after his senior year, he became eligible to play NCAA ball. 

A Difficult Road Ahead

Michael’s path to college and the NFL seemed a done deal, but his future was put in jeopardy when someone suggested to the NCAA that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy had bribed Michael to play for Ole Miss. A lengthy investigation proceeded, and Michael was forced to answer questions about his past and relationships in East Memphis. Michael hated this. He didn’t like to talk about himself and was secretive to a ridiculous degree. Even Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy had a hard time getting any information about his past out of him. But they had officially adopted Michael by this point and had never tried to push Michael’s decision on where to play. Eventually, the investigation was dropped, and he was free to play football at Ole Miss. 

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy: Michael Oher’s Parents

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Michael Lewis's "The Blind Side" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Blind Side summary:

  • How Michael Oher went from the projects in Memphis to the NFL
  • Why the combination of size and speed became essential for football stars
  • How Oher was taken in by the wealthy Tuohy family

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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