Michael Oher's NFL Dream Fulfilled

Rookie tackle says being drafted by Baltimore Ravens was a "dream come true."

December 23, 2009, 4:18 PM

Dec. 23, 2009— -- From the hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio, to the modern-day gridiron heroes in their full HD glory, the story arch of urban youths clawing and working their way to become pro athletes is nothing new.

NFL player Michael Oher's story -- of finding a home and solace away from inner-city Memphis' aptly named Hurt Projects with a wealthy, white family, the Tuohys -- is shared by players such as Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin and Tennessee Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck, who were also taken in by white families and spared from the pitfalls and violence of urban living.

But the similarities shared by players who rose from hardscrabble beginnings to on- and off-the-field glory do not take away from the long road each endured to make it.

For Oher, the dream of playing professional football was about all he had during the darkest times of his life, as he bounced, from home to home and school to school, teetering on the edge of gang recruitment and life in an urban abyss.

Watch "The Blind Side: The True Story Behind the Movie" on a special edition of "20/20" Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 10 p.m. ET.

"The realist dream I ever had was getting, you know, drafted into the NFL," Oher, 23, said in an interview with "20/20." "Ever since I can remember, I always said to myself I want better than what I want right now. No matter where I was, the projects, the neighborhood, I said to myself, 'I'm going to get out.' Every day I woke up and said, 'I'm going to work hard, this day, to get to that next level.'"

Oher did get out, and his story of finding the Tuohy family and success in high school and college was turned into a hit book and Hollywood blockbuster movie, "The Blind Side."

The movie ends with Oher being drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens but his new life chapter is just beginning.

"That was a dream come true," Oher said of the moment he was drafted with the 23rd pick by the Ravens in the first round. "You know, to finally hear your name called, a long road and a lot of hard work, everything had finally paid off. Something I'll never forget."

Opponents Tease Oher, Call Him 'Movie Star'

An already well-known rookie for his collegiate success as a first-team, all-American selection during his senior year, Oher had the added pressure of Hollywood celebrity riding him into his rookie season. He said the extra attention he has received from "The Blind Side" has not been missed by opposing teams.

"I meet a lot of players out there on the other team, kind of joking around and stuff, calling, 'Movie star,' uh, when can I be in the movie?'" he said, chuckling.

Oher has managed to keep his head down and, as in his real-life upbringing, the 6-foot-4, 309-pound offensive tackle is a tale of two worlds on and off the field.

"Oher is this extremely polished, poised, polite young man who, once he crosses the white line on a football field and the game begins, becomes an aggressive, intense, physical force," said Gerry Sandusky, sports anchor for WBAL-TV in Baltimore.

Sandusky referred to Oher's blend of size and agility as an almost once-in-a-decade find for an NFL team. Not since Jonathan Ogden dominated at left tackle for the Ravens in an almost sure-fire Hall of Fame career has the team had such high hopes for a rookie player.

And, so far, drafting Oher has paid off. He has started every game for the Ravens this season, switching between right and left tackle.

"I don't know that I've ever been around a young man at any position that's adapted to the NFL as quickly as Michael has," said Cam Cameron, Ravens offensive coordinator.

"Usually, you don't move a rookie in as a starter, but we didn't have an option. He's never been on the second team since he's been here and he hasn't changed. He's stayed the way he is, and I think that's harder to do than people would think."

But despite the intensity and focus Oher brings on the field, he seems able to flip that switch off when he leaves the field.

"He becomes a force of nature on the field and once he steps off the field, he rejoins the public and you would never know, other than his size, that this was a guy who's made his mark as a modern day gladiator," Sandusky said.

Oher Removed From Flashy, Celeb Lifestyle

At his relatively Spartan -- by NFL standards -- starter home in the Baltimore suburbs, Oher has an understated, sheepish quality to him. He seemed like the kind of person content sitting at home enjoying a movie, away from the flashy lifestyle many professional athletes bask in.

"He's very thoughtful, he's very respectful and he's almost someone who wants to step back far from the spotlight and just watch the picture unfold," Sandusky said.

Oher said, "You know, to have a book or a movie about you, I'm a simple guy, I don't care about things like that. I just want to play football and go out and compete every day, things like that."

Also like any 23-year-old in his first job after college, his five-year, $13.8 million contract notwithstanding, there seems to be an anxiousness to Oher about striking out on his own.

"One of the things we overlook in his story is Michael is a young man in his early 20s in his first job out of college," Sandusky said. "When you reach that point in your life, you want to start making your own tracks. You want to start writing your story, your future. I think that's where he is right now."

Sandusky said that Oher's personal drive was glossed over in the movie.

"I don't think Michael Oher is given enough credit for his role in his story," he said. "Sure, the Tuohys are a remarkable family and all the different people who came in to help pull this kid from the impossible to the unbelievable. But you could take a hundred different people and give them all the same resources, and they wouldn't make it. The 'X' factor here is Michael Oher."

Just as it took a boy with a strong will and big vision to make it from his circumstances, no matter the help and love he got along the way, Oher seems focused and ready to write the newest chapter in his life, away from the glare of "The Blind Side."

"No matter how hard it may get and how hard it may seem, it can always be a lot worse," Oher said. "I know to just enjoy everything you have and just keep working hard.

"I'm going to do everything I possibly can to protect my quarterback and reach my full potential," he said. "My next big dream: to make it to the Super Bowl, win and celebrate with my team."

Watch "The Blind Side: The True Story Behind the Movie" on a special edition of "20/20" Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 10 p.m. ET.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events