The Blind Side: Book About Michael Oher’s Life

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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What is The Blind Side book about? What is the story of Michael Oher?

The Blind Side book details the life story of Michael Oher, and how he became uniquely poised for a career in the NFL. The Blind Side book talks about how football changed before Oher, and how Oher was able to get the opportunity to make his dreams come true.

Read more about The Blind Side book and Michael Oher’s story.

The Blind Side Book

Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side is about a black 15-year-old named Michael Oher from the Memphis inner-city projects who beat the odds to become a football star. This story follows Michael’s journey from his impoverished life with his drug-addicted mother to his adoption by a rich white couple in East Memphis. Through the kindness of strangers and some significant events in the NFL, Michael was able to find his path to success and became one of the greatest left tackles to play high school and college football in the country. 

In the 1980s, a defensive lineman named Lawrence Taylor entered the NFL and changed the way coaches and players viewed the game. Taylor was a huge man, but he was fast like a sprinter and agile. He made it his mission to sack the quarterback, and he was so successful at it that in 1982, a year after his entry, the NFL created the sack statistic. Taylor had a knack for coming in on a right-handed quarterback’s left side, the blind side, and pummeling him to the ground. His strength and speed made him nearly unstoppable, and he created fear in the hearts of his opponents. Coaches knew they needed someone to be able to guard the blind side and stop Taylor, and the result was the birth of the left tackle specialist.

The left tackle had to be just as quick and dexterous as Taylor and just as big. A position that once belonged to 275-pound men built like brick walls now required a player of over 300 pounds who moved like a 165-pound running back. This combination of size, speed, and nimbleness was rare, and those who fit the prototype were suddenly a hot commodity.

From the Projects to High Society

The Blind Side book then goes into Michael Oher’s life. Micheal Oher lived in the worst housing projects in Memphis, known as Hurt Village. The community was riddled with drugs and gang violence. Michael had been in and out of foster care homes between the ages of 7 and 10. Although his mother, who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, lived in the village, she was unable to care for him and his siblings. He was often left to his own devices, went hungry, and didn’t attend school. 

As was the norm in many of the public schools in the inner city, Michael was passed up from grade to grade without learning anything. He had a dream of playing in the NBA, but his chances of making it were slim. With his lack of education or resources, the most likely future for Michael was as a member of the local gang. 

But that all changed when he met Big Tony. Big Tony was a basketball and football coach who came back to Hurt Village often to recruit young players. He saw potential in this 15-year-old boy who weighed more than 300 pounds and stood at 6’5”. He could see the path Michael was going down and wanted to help. He took Michael in and let him sleep on his floor. Tony had a son named Steven, and he’d promised his dying mother he would take Steven across town to East Memphis where the wealthy Christian private schools were located to get a proper education. Since Michael was staying with him, he decided to take Michael, too. 

Finding a Home

Steven and Michael enrolled in Briarcrest Christian School. Steven was an excellent student and had no trouble getting in, but Michael was different. He had an IQ of 80 and a GPA of 0.56. The only reason he was let in was that the football coach saw his size and the principal took pity on him. Michael was quiet and shy and struggled to communicate with others. He didn’t know how to learn in a normal way and had a hard time passing his classes. But the teachers could tell that he was not stupid and required allowances to help him learn. When he finally got his grades up from Fs to Ds and Cs, they allowed him to play sports. 

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. 

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. The Blind Side book details this moment and how it changed Michael’s life.

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. 

The Blind Side Book on Michael’s Legacy

Once he was famous, Michael stopped going back to West Memphis. He became distrustful of people and leaned in to his new life with his new family. All the sporting publications and analysts were betting the farm on his success as an NFL player, and he wanted to protect himself and his finances from people looking for handouts. 

But his absence from Hurt Village didn’t stop other kids from wanting to find a similar path to success. One study of a public high school in West Memphis showed that there were many young black athletes with enough talent to make it professionally, but only 1 of 6 ever would. The others lacked the education required to attend college and didn’t have the resources to change their circumstances. Many of these athletes tried to enroll in Briarcrest, but the school was resistant to increasing their black student population.

Sean and Leigh Anne were conflicted about what to do to help other kids like Michael. They knew their resources had helped Michael succeed, and they knew that if he hadn’t met them, no one would likely know who he was. After reading an article about a dynamic high school football star like Michael who couldn’t accept a full-ride scholarship to play Division I ball because of his grades, they decided to do something about it. Leigh Anne wanted to open a center for young black athletes to help them get the education they deserved and needed to make their dreams come true. 

The Blind Side: Book About Michael Oher’s Life

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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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