Saturday\’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel speculates that the Green Bay Packers may take Ole Miss left tackle Michael Oher with the #9 pick in the first round. I am now kicking myself, as I was going to do a post last week suggesting they take Oher, which would have made me look a lot smarter than I actually am.
Fans of the author Michael Lewis may remember Michael Oher as the subject of his outstanding 2007 book \”The Blind Side.\” The book traces the recent history of the left tackle in football, and why left tackles have become among the highest paid positions on the football field. The book begins with a chapter about Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theismann\’s leg, and how Taylor\’s ability to devastate quarterbacks revolutionized the game. Due to a combination of LT killing quarterbacks and Bill Walsh inventing more pass-happy offenses, protecting the quarterback\’s blind side has become the key to having an effective offense.
Oher grew up in Memphis, in the third poorest zip code in America. He had 12 brothers and sisters, who were barely attended to by his crack-addicted mother. (His father had been murdered.) He had been in and out of foster homes, and rarely attended school – yet the Memphis public schools continued to move him through with the minimum GPA necessary. At age 15, the father of a friend drove him out to East Memphis to try to get him into a virtually all-white Evangelical school, inhabited by Memphis\’ most wealthy families. When he showed up, he didn\’t speak, and couldn\’t read or write – but his sophomore year, he was 6 foot 5, 350 pounds, as nimble as a cat. Naturally, his prowess in sports gave him a chance at this school that he may not normally have had.
A wealthy white family in Memphis took him in and made him their foster son. They pushed him to excel in school, and eventually he began to open up. He also became the most sought after high school offensive lineman in the country, with college coaches flooding to his school to marvel at his athletic ability. By the time he graduated, he had overcome his 0.4 GPA to make the honor roll, and he committed to play at the alma mater of his foster parents, Ole Miss.
As is the case with any of Lewis\’ books, Oher\’s story is only partially about football. It posits some difficult societal questions – how many black kids are we letting rot in the inner cities without an education simply because they don\’t have any athletic ability? How many kids do we mistakenly give up on because we think they have no capacity to learn, when their emotional problems are mainly a result of their horrific upbringing? Oher walked into East Memphis a severely emotionally damaged 15 year-old that society had given up on – yet through the love and care of this Evangelical family, he grew into a fully-formed, mature young man. How many other kids are out there, just like him?
In any event, it would be great if the Packers could draft him and serve as the final chapter in this astounding success story. It also happens that he\’s an amazing left tackle.
Here\’s a video that runs through some of Oher\’s travails: