In many ways, this book is a guide to life, a look at how I made it to where I am today. I want to talk about the goals I had for myself that helped to break me out of the cycle of poverty, addiction, and hopelessness that had trapped my family for so long—and the people who helped me get there. I went from being a homeless child in Memphis to playing in the NFL, and that doesn't happen just by wishing for it. I want to offer advice and encouragement to both the adults who want to be part of a solution and to the kids who might pick up this book and believe there is no way out for them. Yes, the ending of my story is unique, but it doesn't have to be.
I knew when I made it to the pros that I had done the impossible. I can't say that I was never going to look back, though. That's the point of this book—to look back to all the other kids in situations like mine, where no one has any hope for them or gives them a shot to make it out of high school and into mainstream society. We don't have to end up on the streets or in prison just because the statistics say that's where we're headed.
I know there are many people out there who have the love, energy, talents, and resources to make a difference in someone else's life. It might seem intimidating at first to try to figure out how, where, and who to help. I want this book to help give some advice and direction for anyone who wants to be a part of the solution.
The numbers can seem overwhelming, and it can be hard to imagine that anything you have to offer could possibly make a difference with so many kids in the foster system and stuck in terrible neighborhoods and bad home situations. But you have to remember that every small act of love and concern makes a difference to that child.
And as I have learned, a lot of tiny gestures of kindness can add up to something great.
After The Blind Side came out, I had all kinds of people asking me questions about what my life had been like before I started at Briarcrest Academy. Some questions came from reporters. It didn't really bother me that I didn't have much I could share with them. But then those letters started coming in: to the Baltimore Ravens' office, to Ole Miss, to the Tuohys' house. The more I thought about the kids writing me, the more I realized that I had a responsibility to look into my past and really think about what had happened and what had helped in my life to give me hope for the future. It wasn't just time for me to be honest with myself about what I had been through; I owed it to all those other kids who looked at me and saw a role model. Kids who were in the same place I was just a few years ago were watching me not just because they liked the movie or enjoy watching sports. Sure, a lot of people write to me wanting to talk about football. But the letters that truly stood out to me were the ones from those kids whose stories I understood. They weren't writing me for an autograph. They were studying me because they wanted to learn how I had managed to make something out of my life when all of the statistics and studies you read point to kids like us having no shot.
So that was why I was sitting at a table with Ms. Spivey on a hot July afternoon, talking about stuff that happened a decade or more ago. I had decided to write a book that reached back before my happy ending to look at what happened to me and how I ended up where I did.