Fate was about to provide a major turning point, putting Oher on the right path. In 2002, Henderson took his own teenage son to be enrolled in Briarcrest Christian School. But he also took along the boy he was struggling to help -- Michael Oher.
Briarcrest coaches were amazed that this supersized kid could move like a dancer on the basketball court. They knew he was something special.
Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy's two children were also enrolled at Briarcrest. Collins Tuohy, a cheerleader and a straight-A student, was Oher's age, 15. She remembered her first interaction with him in the school halls.
"I was coming down the stairs, he was coming up the stairs," she said. "And obviously I noticed him. And I said, 'Hey,' and he said, 'Hey.'"
Oher's coaches noticed Oher rarely went to the same home after games. So he began staying with the Tuohys. Sean Tuohy, Sr., a wealthy businessman, is a former college basketball player.
"He'd stay every once and awhile, then he'd leave, and then he seemed more comfortable to stay," said Tuohy.
Sean Jr. recalled the first day he found Oher at home.
"I came home one day from practice and he was sitting in the living room, and I [said], 'Hey, Dad, um, there's a really huge black guy on the couch,'" he said. " I don't know if you realize that."
Leigh Anne ended up inviting Oher to stay.
"And then finally Leigh Anne says, 'Why don't you just stay?' recalled Sean Sr. "And he said, 'That's what I'd like to do.'"
Leigh Anne Tuohy said her heart went out to Oher.
"I just think Michael needed somebody, and it was so evident that there was nobody in his life," she said. "And to me, it just broke my heart. And, and very quickly, I just fell in love with him."
Oher quickly settled in with the Tuohys.
"He made us sit around the dinner table," said Sean Sr. "If we were going to spend time with him, we had to go to his, his neighborhood. And so we'd come eat at the table. We haven't eaten at the table since he left."
Oher said his new siblings welcomed him.
"SJ, Sean Jr., and, you know, Collins, they act[ed] like I was a part of, you know, the family," said Oher. "So they, they welcomed me with, you know, open arms."
By the time Christmas rolled around, Oher was even included in the family holiday card. And like in the movie, Leigh Anne Tuohy says she got a call from her cousin with a question.
"He goes, 'I'm not, you know, I'm not, I'm not trying to be rude or anything,'" she said. "But, he goes, 'Who's the black boy in the Christmas card?' You know, and we just didn't think about it."
Leigh Anne said it was a long time before she felt Oher returning affection.
"I hugged him a lot," she said. "I'm really touchy feely. I go to each child's room every night and kiss them good night and hug. I did that just to Michael like I did the other two, and it was just kind of not much of a response for a long time. And then finally, one night, it was just this random, you know, I said 'Night, honey. Love you, see you in the morning.' And I got a 'Love you too.' And I went outside the door and I was like, wow. I said, 'We have moved mountains.'"
As Oher settled in with the Tuohy family, it almost seemed as if he'd been with them his entire life. But at the Briarcrest Christian School, he had much more work to do.
Oher said the predominately white school was a far cry from the North Memphis neighborhood of his youth.