Thursday, December 26, 2013

In A Heartbeat

This next book would be one I thought would be perfect to finish and close out the 2013 year. It's a book that I find speaks about what it TRULY means to be selfless and giving. It's the TRUE story of how a well-to-do family from Memphis, TN, took in a kid that, not only, changed his life but theirs as well. Written by the TRUE people themselves, here is the story that tells more than what you seen outside of the award-winning film, 'The Blind Side' telling their own story, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy This book tells more than what you seen in a film. It reaffirms what it truly means to be grateful and to give back.

Leigh Anne is an interior designer w/ her own firm, Flair 1 Interiors. Sean has his own company, RGT Management, which over the years has acquired more than 80 known restaurants. They were heading out to breakfast on a weekday morning, a common casualty. The Tuohy family was in the family when they spotted Michael Oher, walking slowly among a cement walk, past a series of wrought iron gates that held grand homes. They wondered what a kid was doing there in that neighborhood at 9:30A being so out of place? Walking on foot and in shorts. As they passed Michael, Sean Jr. A.K.A.  S.J., recognized him. He was the "new kid" everyone was talking about at Briarcrest Christian School. The school had begun to seek out and admit minority children to give students full exposure to the world around them. Michael was one of those children and stuck out like a sore thumb. Leigh Anne wondered what a kid was doing that early in the day at school? School wasn't in session and that was it.

Later on the family learned that for Michael, holidays were just another day to him. Sean and Leigh Ann recall their first encounter w/ Michael. He had agreed to let them drive him to a bus stop in the wintry freeze. The following Monday, Leigh Anne went to the school inquiring questions of who this kid was? NO ONE HAD A CLUE. In the months ahead, the family's relationship w/ Michael would develop w/ ALOT of sarcasm back/forth. Michael learned quick you can say just about anything and NOT get in trouble. You can have an opinion.

Leigh Anne and Sean had supported and cared for plenty of kids besides Michael. They still do. Their house is the place kids run to! But Michael was different. They could see he needed more than any kid they've ever met. He ALWAYS had that spark to be a success. The Tuohy's just gave him the tools and moved out of the way. The family jobs and activities ALWAYS seemed like a constant merry-go-round. Then Michael came along. As time moved on and months passed without notice, Michael just became family. Happening in a heartbeat. Help is something that comes from the heart. You don't do it for an agenda. You do it because it's the right thing to do. Thousands of people failed to recognize Michael Oher, his quality and promise.

Sean Tuohy
By the time Michael was 17-18 years of age, he might have commonly fallen through the cracks. Sean Tuohy, Sr. is from New Orleans to a legendary high school basketball coach. Struggling to raise four kids on a gym teacher's salary. Sean worked a paper route as a kid.  He was always the sweaty, athletic kid trying to keep score. He was a versatile good athlete and a worker. He was also really good in school sports. Sean's mother was an "events mom". Any of her kids have a sport or game event, she was there. Sean then tells what life was like as a kid in sports w/ his own father. During the spring of his freshman year, Sean's energetic and high spirited father suffered a stroke at age 41. He was rushed to the hospital to undergo brain surgery to remove a  blood clot in his brain. He died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated. After he needed rehab help, Sean's parents had little choice but to move in w/ his grandparents. Sean was 15 and his older brother was 17, while their older sister was in college.With a disabled husband came serious financial and emotional burdens. Sean's mom had to work w/ a local Catholic newspaper and a drugstore. There were people willing to help out of openheartedness. The Tuohy kids were surrounded and sustained by generosity. They were granted free tuition for the rest of their high school careers, even though their father no longer worked there.

The experience of going without at times shaped Sean to be determined for the rest of his life to be good at anticipating the needs of others. Neighbors and friends would help him out when ever Sean needed it. He was grateful every step of the way. Despite the loss of his father, Sean's athletic career continued to flourish thanks to a man named Billy Fritzgerald. Even though people came in to work for his dad's position, NO ONE took over. They acted as head coach, long after Sean's dad couldn't work, out of respect for him. Sean had ALOT of RESPECT for those who encouraged and helped him. After his father's stroke, Sean could've gone in another direction, but he had someone looking out for him.

Sean was a good enough baseball player that he was being scouted by the Cincinnati Reds. Sean turned down their offer for college. He had scholarship offers to play college ball w/ limited choices. He wanted to go to a school w/ a band and REAL fight song. That's how SERIOUS his search was. He accepted a FULL ride to Ole Miss. The head coach at the university learned his methods as a long time assistant to Indiana legend, Bobby Knight. Outside of his HORRIBLE sporting experience at Ole Miss, Three things made his life better and more positive:

1. his teammates
2. his first car
3. meeting Leigh Anne - They were sophomores when they met for the FIRST time.

Sean first met Leigh Anne in December 1979. They had met at a boxer shorts-and-sunglasses theme party. He seen her after crossing the threshold and seen a girl coming at him in a blaze. She jumped into his arms and kissed him. Afterward Leigh Anne disappeared into the crowd. Sean was dumbfounded. As soon as he caught sight of her again, Sean asked who she was? It was Leigh Anne Roberts, a varsity cheerleader and a prominent member of their sorority house. She was already known as an organized go-getter.

Within a few weeks they began to see each other. They fell into a routine and had long talks lasting until 3AM. Leigh Anne was one that didn't have to be right, she just wanted it to be right. Leigh Anne's FORTHRIGHTNESS came in when she insisted on getting engaged. It was a COMPLETE SURPRISE to Sean. He would have, but she was a few steps ahead of him. After they graduated and were married, their futures were vague.

Sean had many options, but they didn't fit. He decided on a career in business and was driven to make money. When he began to accomplish that, he immediately developed the urge to give back to kids who had less. As he was about to begin business school, Sean got an offer to play ball in a European league. Leigh Anne urged him to take it. He did. When he was in Europe, Sean heard that his father was diagnosed w/ cancer. After his summer tour, Leigh Anne met him at the airport. They had only been married for 3 months. Sean's dad lasted 3 weeks after he came home. When they began their lives together, they had a shared foundation of values and of TRUE character of how you treat people.

Tim McGraw had almost not signed on to do the film. He had already done a football film, Friday Night Lights and didn't want to do another. But there was something infectious about Michael's story. The iron fist and her love of order for Leigh Anne comes from her father, Stanley Charles Roberts, who was a Korean War veteran and a U.S. Marshall. Leigh Anne's eye for color and compulsive cleaning habits come from her mother, who herself is an interior designer. The entire Roberts family lived by a certain motto: Don't talk about it. Live it. Leigh Anne's father was an outwardly hard guy type. He didn't say a whole lot, but spoke w/ action. He father was basically a cop. They had comfortable circumstances, but also had to stretch a dollar at times. Leigh Anne was 5 when her younger brother, Stanford, was born. After donating 10% of his earnings, Leigh Anne's father still managed to give $20.00/month to Save The Children organizations.

Johnny Cash
On a corner of her father's beat as a cop was a family-owned jewelry store, and while doing his rounds he liked to say hello to the attractive salesgirl. He soon stopped over more often. When it got cold outside, he'd come in and stay awhile. After a few months, they were engaged. In 1961, he was appointed a deputy U.S. Marshall under President John F. Kennedy and assigned to the Memphis office. Stanley Roberts looked and acted every inch a lawman. He looked like something out of Dragnet. Professionally, Stanley was responsible for transporting prisoners, serving warrants and chasing fugitives. He once arrested Johnny Cash. On November 24, 1963, he was detained to go to Dallas to help transport Lee Harvey Oswald from police jail headquarters to county jail. Before they could gain custody, Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the stomach.

Leigh Anne and her mom
Leigh Anne's mother found a way to pay for family extras. She was a go-getter who worked all the time, a self-made and self-educated woman who held down 2 jobs on top of raising 2 kids. She put herself through school to become an interior house designer. She was in the right place at the right time when the condo boom hit in the mid-1970s and did some model interiors in Memphis. One job led to another. Seeing her parents work so hard made Leigh Anne independent early. She got her first job when she turned 14. She was a shop-girl then on to waitressing. It was up to Leigh Anne to get herself where she needed to go and NOT be chauffeured around. She applied for a "Hardship licence". It made her realize early on that she had to be mature and accountable. When it came to college, Leigh Anne's mom wanted her daughter to get away from home and experience college life. Despite financial struggle, Leigh Anne's mom was her capacity to be a mom to others. She was always mothering others, people outside of immediate family.

Kappa Delta was the go-getter sorority at Ole Miss; they were cheerleaders, homecoming queens and student body presidents. Then came Sean. Already a cheerleader, Leigh Anne was a sophomore doing the Hotty Toddy and human pyramids. She was in the middle row when she first noticed Sean.That night at the Kappa Alpha party, Leigh Anne introduced herself to Sean. For all of his joking about her outspokenness and strong personality, Sean had a greater influence on Leigh Anne than she did on him. He/Sean was the driving force in their relationship right from the beginning. While waiting for graduation, Sean considered his career options.

Sean had impressed an Ole Miss patron who offered him an entry-level position at an investment bank. They had anticipated one last escape by going to Europe before beginning their working lives together. But Sean's father sickness worsened. They grew up ALOT faster when they coped with his dad's death. Things were happening w/ Leigh Anne's as well. When they started, they had a nest egg of $1,000, that they borrowed from Leigh Anne's parents. $3,000 from Sean's mom for a down payment on a house. Sean's beginning salary was $18,000/year. Leigh Anne found a job in the sales dept. of a small letter courier service. They had agreed to wait to have kids.

Sandra Bullock was scared from the minute she met Leigh Anne. She couldn't say anything. For the longest time, Sandra kept saying NO to the role because she didn't know how to play this woman. The director could NOT explain Leigh Anne to save his life. Sandra agreed to meet her and went to Memphis. Sandra told Leigh Anne her concerns on the religious banner thing. It scared Sandra because of her own experiences w/ religion. But, Leigh Anne was so open, honest and forthright. Sandra felt she finally met people who walk the walk. She felt she just got pulled into the role without saying yes! If she was going to play Leigh Anne Tuohy, it was going to be an inspirational, TRUE LIFE story with a message. Every piece of Sandra in the role was/is Leigh Anne Tuohy. This story REALLY OPENED Sandra's eyes at adoption and fostering. WWLATD? (What Would Leigh Anne Tuohy Do?)

Sean and Leigh Anne's first home was a tiny cottage in Sherwood Forest. They renovated the house themselves w/ the help of friends. Their furniture came from garage sales; they'd buy old pieces  and refurnish it themselves. After less than a year, Sean gave up the investment bank job. He didn't like to call people he knew and ask them for money. Sean
took a job installing home alarm systems. Through the hassles of the job, Sean took pride in the job. He liked it ALOT better than working behind a desk. Leigh Anne was the only woman in her department peddling an overnight messenger service. They weren't rich, but Sean & Leigh Anne realized they had ALOT more than most.

Over dinner one evening, a friend told Leigh Anne that there were 8 kids that she taught in her classroom as a teacher that couldn't afford their annual physicals. A basic checking cost just $12.00. Yet, these children's families didn't have the money. Impulsively, Leigh Anne agreed and paid the $96.00 total tab for the physicals. Even though the Tuohy's were being helped with their bills, they managed to make it work. Pretty soon Sean & Leigh Anne found themselves doing more. It took the Tuohy's 4 years  of pounding pavement before they felt secure enough to financially think about their own child. Sean was promoted to president of the alarm company and he also began making money on the side in sports radio. Leigh Anne's sales bonuses were so strong, she was making $40,000/year.

Collins and her mom, Leigh Anne
Sean and Leigh Anne's daughter, Collins, was born on 12-29-1986. Collins was such a calm, easygoing and perfect baby for the new parents. Collins was a deal-breaker for Sean. He was always working and didn't want to miss any time with her. When work time crossed into family time, Sean decided he had to be his own boss.
In 1988, Leigh Anne's brother, Stanford, came across a Taco Bell franchise that was for sale in Misssippi. Sean, Stanford and Stanford's father-in-law, bought the franchise. Sean was designated the group's managing partner and named their business Ole Bellco.

When it came to work, Sean took genuine pride in his work because he owned it. It was the work he made, not someone else. When 2 more Taco Bell's became available, Sean and Stanford bought them using the capital from the first one. Sean was soon in a great position to grow their company. At the age of 26, Sean was on his way to becoming a fast-food baron. As far as money itself went, Sean and Leigh Anne were complete opposites: Sean wanted to make money and Leigh Anne wanted to give it away. By the early 1990s, when the Tuohy's realized they had a chance to become wealthy, they thought about the most powerful way to give back.

Sean Jr. (S.J.)

Sean hung onto every word of that day's church sermon. He began putting those words into action. Leigh Anne pointed out there was a difference between giving and enabling. Sean & Leigh Anne, as well as many others, too often confuse the power of giving w/ the effectiveness of giving. If someone was entirely prepared on what is spent on, they wouldn't give as much as they wanted. Sean Jr. was born on July 4, 1993, even though Leigh Anne wanted differently. It took her awhile to have another child, because Collins was so painful. Plus babies made her/ Leigh Anne nervous. If they could tell you what was wrong, it would make things easier.

Leigh Anne's hospital room filled w/ people. It looked like a barbecue. They even had an open bar. The doctor had to fight his way into the delivery room. Sean and the doctor sat down and played spades, while Leigh Anne tried to hurry and deliver before midnight. They missed the mark and Sean Jr. arrived at 2 A.M. But after delivery, S.J. was born w/ a fever and had Beta Strep infection. They had a tense week before they could take him home. When the kids were growing up, church was a non-negotiable. San and Leigh Anne thought and felt - wisely - "If you're too tired for church, you're too tired for anything else for the rest of the week." Leigh Anne was coldblooded when it came to searching for contraband. Information is a valuable tool.

Sean & Leigh Anne piled on activities to where there was NO free time to sit and stir. They believed in the value of sports teams and hat came w/ it: discipline dedication. By the late 1990s, Sean and his partners at RGT Management were on their way to acquiring more than 80 restaurants. Leigh Anne's business was booming as well,  thanks to athletes in the NBA/NFL + their coaches. When it came to giving, they had a "Get One. Give One." concept. If you got something, you had to give up something. Sean and Leigh Anne wanted their kids to get a dose of reality, so they wouldn't be too sequestered by comfortable circumstances. It's always easy to write a check, but Sean & Leigh Anne wanted the kids to see who was being helped.

They wanted to get the point of giving becoming it's own reward. They wouldn't have to make their kids help others. When Collins was in 7TH grade, Sean drifted into coaching. When he saw wasn't up to par, he volunteered to coach the 8TH grade basketball team. Coaching made Sean feel good. Reminding him of his dad. He was good at it. He kind of took them from zero to top 10. Sean & Leigh Anne became contributors to a program that funded the tuition for kids to have better opportunities attending Briarcrest. Helping was a natural inclination for Sean - keeping in mind he wouldn't have gotten anywhere without the help he was given in his own life. Getting their friends involved was a perfect case of friendship multiplying a gift. Leigh Anne looked at it to help ALL the kids that needed it  . . . . NOT JUST THE ONES THAT MADE GOOD GRADES. In 2001, something happened to snap the Tuohy's out of comfortability and put things into perspective. Sean's company, RGT Management went bankrupt. The financial picture forced Sean to seriously consider filing for Chapter 11. Leigh Anne wasn't mad or afraid. She could go back to Sherwood Forest and be just as happy.

Sean was beginning to carve out a career as a broadcaster. In 2000, he had become the radio color analyst for the Memphis Grizzlies. He was then moved into a TV booth as a color commentator alongside others. Everything worked out in the end.

Leah Anne & Collins Tuohy

"Give What You Have To Someone, It May Be Better Than You Dare Think." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When Collins Tuohy was 15, Sean & Leah Anne sent her on a mission trip to the Guatemala City  dumps. She didn't want to go, but she got ALOT out of it. She was also sent to work in soup kitchens. They didn't want her to love it. Sean & Leah Anne just wanted to open her eyes to an unfortunate part of the world. Sean & Leah Anne express it's not so hard to do or be something to others. When Michael came into the family, Collins & S.J. felt more was added to the family and they weren't being taken away or stripped of anything.

When Michael arrived in the Tuohy home, there was NO TENSION OR ANIMOSITY. Michael, himself, came from the aptly named Hurt Village, a boarded and busted windowed up, gang ridden urban project where all of the parks had broken swings. The Tuohy's didn't start out to adopt a homeless kid or a third child. THAT WASN'T THEIR MISSION. Sean's business was still on the rebound. It was just one thing led to another. Their relationship began w/ lunch. In the fall of 2002, Sean was a visitor in the Briarcrest cafeteria, having being a volunteer coach. He observed Michael Oher in the cafeteria. Sean noticed Michael didn't eat the same things as the other kids, if he ate at all. Michael looked like he went to school not knowing whether he would eat that day and hoping someone would buy him a meal.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Sean spotted Michael in the school bleachers watching basketball practice. Michael was on academic probation until he made his grades and wasn't able to play ball. Sean stepped up to Michael and introduced himself. When Sean asked Michael what he ate for lunch that day, he didn't like Michael's answer. Sean asked Collins about Michael's lunch. He told/asked her to buy Michael's lunch without him knowing. Sean then went into the administrative office asking about Michael? Without him knowing. Sean charged Michael's lunch on his credit card on the lunch program. Forever. Of all the other kids they helped, these kids had their own family or a place to go to. But Michael didn't even have someone to help w/ paperwork.

After the Tuohy's got to know Michael a little, Leigh Anne inquired questions that didn't give her the answers she wanted. Michael awoke every day of his life unsure of how he was going to eat or where to sleep? Michael ran away from one foster home after another until CPS lost track of him at age 10. For 18 months, he didn't go to school at all. He missed the entire 3RD grade. At his last attended school, Michael missed 51 days of the school year. At Briarcrest, the basketball coach and the principal decided to give Michael a chance. NOBODY else thought Michael would amount to anything, but these people seen him avoid trouble - even though it was around him. They seen something different in Michael - he had that spark and hunger.

Once he got to Briarcrest, Michael went between the homes of 4-5 families. One night it was a couch, the next it was a floor. In the fall of 2002, Michael was in arrears - socially, academically & financially. Michael was short on what other kids learned years ago. He was completely lost from the get go. Michael was desperate to make it at Briarcrest. He just didn't know if he could. At times it seemed easier to quit. But Michael wanted to be there. He knew it was good for him. But he had to do the work. He was struggling in the classroom and frustrating. Luckily, a devoted Briarcrest biology teacher refused to let Michael fail. She searched to find out what he knew and didn't know. She knew he was smart, quick and trying to do the work. BINGO! Michael was a better visual & oral learner than a textual one. The school staff began to see what fight Michael had to stick it out.

Sean saw in Michael the kid he had once been at the poorest kid at a rich school. He did for Michael what people did for him. Sometimes Sean would talk to Michael out of going elsewhere. He invited Michael to stay at his house. One night Michael accepted the invitation.

One night on the couch led to another. Eventually, Michael's hanging out began at longer stretches. They were all just comfortable with each other. The Tuohy's could tell that shelter and food were a continual issue for him. Leigh Anne spoke her mind to Michael and vice versa. They were an odd couple who just FIT in as mother and son. They had a bond NO ONE else did. Michael seen something he NEVER HAD BEFORE in Leigh Anne. Someone who wanted to give and care. Leigh Anne discovered Michael missed out on the most fundamental child care. One by one Leigh Anne dealt w/ his most urgent needs and basic needs of survival. After a scary experience of trying to take Michael home, they talked it over and invited Michael to move in full-time. After picking up some necessities, Michael became part of the household.

It was a testament to Michael's fortitude & intelligence that he could teach himself ANYTHING. In public restaurants, Michael was nervous with what he didn't know. As Collins, S.J. & Michael bonded, they swapped references of what they hadn't been exposed to culturally. Leigh Anne had to teach Michael what he didn't know or was exposed to! Little by little, Leigh Anne broke down barriers and led Michael across them. She was his tour guide and he soaked up the information. Left alone without Leigh Anne's prodding, Michael was quiet. He didn't talk about his past, but used it to fuel his future.

The Tuohy Family encouraged Michael to visit his biological family. They wanted him to include them in whatever he did. It was a testament to Michael's willpower & survival skills that he had escaped the neighborhood he came from without a police record or a bullet in him. It was Leigh Anne who finally broke through and earned Michael's emotional trust. The most single fictional part of 'The Blind Side' film was that Michael Oher didn't know how to play football. Michael, himself, was a fairly impressive athlete. Sean's goal wasn't to groom Michael to play football at Ole Miss, much less the NFL. His goal was to help him get a high school diploma. In Michael's junior year, he blossomed. He was NO LONGER overwhelmed and was SECURE at Briarcrest. His shine began to show - in all ways - on the football field.

When it came to personal things, Michael went to Leigh Anne or Collins. If it was more practical, Michael went to Sean, due to growing up without a father and distrusting men. He/Michael began to slowly improve. By the end of fall, Michael had the ability for a football scholarship. That spring they added Michael more into the family. It was no exaggeration to say that Michael brought everyone closer together. Everyone was always off doing their own thing. When Michael moved in, they were ALL on the same page. As siblings go, NO ONE resented one another. They also fought that way too!

Michael ALWAYS felt like part of the family. It was NEVER awkward. With the Tuohy's Michael just belonged there and they wanted him there. He was taken in as a son and as a big brother. It AMAZED Leigh Anne what progress and how far Michael had come when he felt loved, full and smart. Michael, the boy who was once so ill at ease had become a sophisticate.  But in order to be officially eligible for college football, Michael had to raise his GPA. In his junior year, he was passing his subjects, but it wasn't enough. As a senior, he would need ALL A's & B's and even that might not be enough.

Miss Sue
Sean suggested that Michael delay college, but Michael was DETERMINED to get there. That night they formed Team Oher and mapped out their strategy to succeed. Their first call was to Sue Mitchell, she had taught English in the county school system for 30 years. Michael's academic push became a communal project. EVERYBODY jumped in to help. They were going to see that Michael had everything he needed to succeed: whether it be the right book or the right compass. Six nights a week, Michael worked until at least 11:00P and sometimes into the early hours of the morning at 6:30A for extra credit work.

Collins helped support Michael throughout his academic marathon and she gave up some things as well. Collins was a candidate for homecoming queen but rearranged her entire schedule. Even though she was an honor roll student in advanced classes, Collins dropped them to be in Michael's English and Math classes instead and spent hours studying w/ him at night. Collins took careful notes in class in case Michael needed them. Sometimes Collins brought her friends over to make studying more enjoyable for him. There was no question Michael could do the work, timing was the only issue. When Miss Sue and Collins would take a break and watch American Idol, Michael was exasperated. He pulled a heavy sled the whole year. After football season came basketball and Michael was runner-up "Mr. Basketball". After basketball came track and Michael broke the sectional record in the discus.

Michael's whole future rested on an athletic scholarship. When Michael's final report card came, he got all A's & B's. The guarded kid they first met had become a self-confident, outgoing young man. On May 25, 2005, Michael & Collins both received their diplomas. Everyone applauded all the graduated, but when Michael received his, everyone whistled w/ special appreciation. The Biarcrest principal burst into a huge grin as he shook Michael's hand. Due to not having enough time to fit requirements after graduation, Michael went back to work on an independent study program. It was another excuse for everyone to be at the dinner table together again as a family.

Lou Gehrig
A biography and really reading Lou Gehrig's book captivated Michael. He could relate to his story. Having to get knocked down to realize how people really feel about you. - Lou Gehrig

Michael had chosen Ole Miss after a certain amount of recruiting drama. Some said that Sean and Leigh Anne put the fix in for their alma mater. But, at Ole Miss he could be close to home and continue working w/ Miss Sue. The truth was that Michael had more of a choice about where to go to college than Collins ever did. For Collins, Ole Miss, to Leigh Anne's view, it wasn't optional for Collins to attend elsewhere.

Michael and Collins
Almost immediately, Collins came down w/ a case of homesickness. When those moments came, it was Michael who gave her crucial comfort. Michael's dorm was down the street from Collins' and she went EVERYWHERE w/ him. Collins would have to look out for him. NOW there was a role reversal. Michael became Collins' protector. As a freshman, Collins made varsity cheerleader. Whenever Collins needed Michael, HE WAS THERE FOR HER. just before Christmas of Collins' sophomore year, she was granted a room in the elegant KD house. The catch was that Collins had to be moved out of her dorm before closing for the holiday.

Michael got the football team waiting out on the curb to help. He was privileged compared to ALOT of his other teammates. For most of her career, Miss Sue taught average, middle class students. She realized that she wasn't teaching students, she was teaching material. She proved what she believed: Caring teachers made a difference. The Tuohy's wanted Michael to be a cheerful giver as well. On holidays, he was told to invite as many kids as he wanted to come home w/ him. Michael made sure that not one teammate that was hungry or without family was left behind in Oxford. When they returned, Michael was named All-American and made the honor roll. Collins became president of various campus groups. He was also named a team captain and had won the Col. Earl "Red" Black Leadership Scholarship Award plus many others.

That spring, Michael and his teammates prepared for the NFL Draft. Meanwhile Collins went on interviews figuring out what to do w/ her life. When the day the NFL Draft arrived, everyone was in their best attire. They were all thrilled for Michael and felt a sense of completion. Michael was officially chosen by the Baltimore Ravens. On 7-30- 2009, Michael signed a multi-year contract worth millions. He was a made man. With his new hard-earned success, Michael was giving back. At this time, The Blind Side was upon completion. After it reached theaters, Michael called Leigh Anne.

Michael & S.J.
Collins grew up most of her life, then Mike came. For S.J. he grew up with Mike. The thing about the movie was that it showed Mike's early years. NOW he's Mr. Personality and ALOT like Sean. When the film came out, Collins, S.J. and Michael put their money together and gave it to charity. S.J. was the only one who put his money in the bank, while everyone else spent.

John Lee Hancock assured the Tuohy family that he could turn 'The Blind Side' into a good film. He seen mass appeal in the relationship between Michael & Leigh Anne. John Lee warned them he didn't intend to sugarcoat Michael's life or turn Leigh Anne into Mother Teresa. Sandra Bullock hesitated to accept the role to play Leigh Anne. She wanted to know if she could come to Memphis to meet Leigh Anne before officiating her decision.

After a real meeting in Memphis, Leigh Anne was surprised that Sandra was so tense. When Leigh Anne drove Sandra around, she got to like her even better. At lunch, Leigh Anne seen the REAL Sandra for what she is: low maintenance, unpretentious & a bit of a smart aleck, she fit in just fine. She/Sandra fit right in step w/ the Tuohy family. It was on the drive back from Oxford that Sandra got up the nerve to ask Leigh Anne if she actually carried a gun? Leigh Anne popped the console between the seats and showed Sandra a little hand pistol.

After that, Sandra called the director and said that "Leigh Anne terrifies me, but I think I have to play this role." The Blind Side finally began filming in April 2008 in Atlanta. The young executive producer in charge of filming was Molly Smith,who was the daughter of Fred Smith, founder of FedEx. Sandra was so concerned about getting the part right, she was constantly asking questions every day. Everything right down to labels & makeup. John Lee sent a film crew to the Tuohy home to get the decor right. IT WAS NO JOKE & SERIOUS how REAL Sandra wanted for this part to be played.

To Michael, the film was a distraction. He was trying to prove himself as a player and he didn't want anyone thinking he was more interested in red carpets than the football field. Michael didn't want special treatment, he just wanted to play football. Michael's rookie season became another excuse for the Tuohy family to be together taking it on the road. Michael started ALL 16 regular season games; later in the fall he flipped positions at the same time that he had to master. He couldn't believe what was happening to him. The Tuohy family was around the team so much that they gradually became acquainted w/ Michael's teammates and coaches. Every time he was introduced in the starting lineup, when the loudspeaker introduced Michael and he ran onto the field, Leigh Anne burst into tears w/ pride as his mom. With the release of The Blind Side came an explosion of publicity. The film premiered in New York in October, then nationwide on November 20TH. Michael skipped the premiere due to his vow to remain a player, NOT a personality. He wanted to stay focused on his beginning career in the NFL. When Michael finally saw the film, he did it quietly on the sly. When the film boomed at the box office, Michael was coming into his own as a player.

Michael's teammates would protect the Tuohy family from out-of-control fans. Michael protects the team. The team protects Michael and his team at home. They were exhilarated by the success of the film, but it didn't come without emotional  complications from the Tuohy family. Along with new-found celebrity came critics who questioned motives or something wrong w/ the film. S.J. caught ALOT of flak enough for everybody. He would catch jeers and taunts from the stands during games from rivalry. But, S.J. NEVER LOST focus or composure. If anyone struggled w/ unwanted attention, it was Michael. The popularity of the film was double-edged.

Sandra and S.J
For all they had done for Michael, the only thing the family could give him was hard: space. He needed room to establish his identity and independence. Since the film, one of the people Michael remained close to was Miss Sue. Each of the NFL rookies from Ole Miss invited Miss Sue to come see them play that season. Sue had to learn to treat Michael as an independent adult, and not as a college student anymore.

For the most part, everyone dealt with the success of 'The Blind Side' in the right spirit. Each of the Tuohy kids gave away one quarter of what they earned from Hollywood. They had NO participation in the profits; they only received a fee for selling their story rights. It was NO surprise that Sean & Leigh Anne did not observe decorum at The 82ND Annual Academy Awards. They were on their BEST behavior as to not embarrass their friend, Sandra. After the awards, they went to the Governor's Ball. It was crystal clear that the Tuohy's were supposed to use the success of 'The Blind Side' to help others and pass on the knowledge to help make a difference. Cheerful giving is just what they do. They really like to give at the grassroots; whether it's schools or church basement kitchens - ANYTHING that helps children who have less.

When S.J. is on break from school, he does youth coaching. They were stunned by the success of the film. Then they realized the source of the film's power: we could ALL change people's lives by investing time in individuals. People could honestly relate to 'The Blind Side' film. Cheerful giving has an AMAZING power, something else you can share as well.

                                       This book is REALLY ENRICHING.
Reading this book, it TRULY leaves you with a feeling of WANTING to give back!

REAL Tuohy Family          Movie Family


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