Most people probably know my name from The Blind Side. What they probably don't know—what no one knows—is exactly what happened to me during my years in the foster care system, the years before The Blind Side picked up my story. The things in my life that led up to it; the way I tried to fight back; the emotions that overwhelmed me and left me confused, scared, and alone; all of the memories that no one was able to bring out of me; everything in my life that came before the happy ending—those are the things I want to discuss. All of that, and I want to provide a voice for the other half-million children in the foster care system who are silently crying out for help.
But the one thing I particularly want to stress is that I was determined to make something of myself, and that's the hope I want to offer to those children and teens, and the adults in their lives who want to help them. This book is designed to tell my story while explaining the lessons I learned along the way and looking at the mind-set I had to succeed, with or without anyone else's help.
I've read some newspaper articles recently where Leigh Anne Tuohy is quoted as saying that I would either be dead from a shooting or the bodyguard to some gang leader if I hadn't been taken in by their family. I think that had to have been a misquote because despite the sensationalist things that make for a more dramatic story, what my family knows and what I know is that I would have found my way out of the ghetto one way or another.
Failure was not an option for me.
Any person who would suggest that I would have ended up facedown in a gutter somewhere is missing a huge part of the story. The Blind Side is about how one family helped me reach my fullest potential, but what about the people and experiences that all added up to putting me in their path? As anyone in my family will tell you, they were just part of a complicated series of events and personalities that helped me achieve success. They were a huge part of it, but it was a journey I'd started a long time before. And it's that journey I want to share in this book for other struggling kids who are fighting for their own way out.
I've tried to be as honest as I can about the things I discuss here. This book is everything I've never spoken about to anyone before, and a lot of things I've tried to forget. People used to say that my ability to forget was what allowed me to move on. They were right. But no kid ever truly forgets when they've experienced neglect, abuse, and heartbreak. And now, I think I can only succeed in accomplishing something meaningful and important in my life if I share those memories so that other people can learn and understand what growing up is really like for kids like me.
I have to admit that I don't remember all the details of my childhood. I have done a pretty good job of blocking them out. To finish this book, I went home to Memphis and, with the help of Don Yaeger, talked to some of the people who played a role in my childhood—foster parents, teachers, caseworkers.
To get out of that world, I did have to forget. To get to the next place in my life, I had to face what I left behind.