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Oher returns to Ole Miss

 

After four years at Ole Miss and two years with the Baltimore Ravens, Michael Oher headlined Ole Miss’ 11th annual Ladies’ Football Forum last Saturday at the Indoor Practice Facility.

The subject of the national best-selling book and major motion picture, “The Blind Side,” this past year, Oher, co-authored his own book, “I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond.” After meeting with members of the media, Oher took part in a spirited question-and-answer session with the ladies. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, his adopted parents, were also in attendance with Leigh Anne serving as guest speaker for the event.

“Ole Miss is like family, so whenever I can be a part of it and help out and see the fans, it’s always fun,” Oher said.

A five-star recruit out of Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Oher played in all 11 games, including 10 starts at right guard, and earned first-team Freshman All-SEC honors before making the move to left tackle as a sophomore. At left tackle, he helped pave the way for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

After disappointing 3-8, 4-8 and 3-9 seasons under former head coach Ed Orgeron, Oher helped lead a 9-4 turnaround in his senior season under then first-year coach Houston Nutt, highlighted by a 31-30 upset of eventual national champion Florida in “The Swamp” and capped by a 47-34 win over No. 8 Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. 

He was a consensus first-team All-American, unanimous first-team All-SEC selection and helped Ole Miss rank second in the Southeastern Conference in rushing (186.5 yards per game), led by running backs Dexter McCluster, Cordera Eason and Brandon Bolden.

Three years removed from his playing career at Ole Miss, Oher continues to maintain close relationships with the Ole Miss family, from the coaches to the players to the fans. He has been around the program a lot this summer and said the players are working hard and making a lot of progress in the offseason. 

“These guys are always like family and always treat me well,” Oher said. “It’s a great staff and great players and, like I said, they’re working hard, so I’m looking forward to seeing them this season.” 

After a stellar four-year career at Ole Miss, Oher was the first Rebel selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, going to the Baltimore Ravens with the 23rd pick in the first round, while college teammate Peria Jerry followed with the 24th pick to the Atlanta Falcons.

He has started all 36 games of his pro career with the Ravens, including four playoff games. As a rookie, after five games at right tackle, he made the move back to left tackle and helped the Ravens tie a franchise record for points (391) and set a record for most offensive touchdowns (47). The Ravens earned a wild-card playoff berth and Oher helped pave the way for a postseason-franchise-record 234 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in a 33-14 win over the New England Patriots.

Last year, the Ravens followed a 2,200-yard rushing season with a 1,831-yard rushing season, led by running back Ray Rice, who finished with 1,220 yards on the ground. Oher also helped protect quarterback Joe Flacco, who set career highs with 3,622 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. The Ravens earned another wild-card playoff berth and set another postseason-franchise-record with 390 total yards in a 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

This offseason, whenever the lockout is lifted, the Ravens face unrestricted free agency for veteran wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth and veteran cornerbacks Chris Carr and Fabian Washington. In the NFL Draft this past April, the team addressed both needs with two wide receivers and two cornerbacks, in addition to another offensive tackle, in its first five picks. 

Oher is confident about the upcoming NFL season if and when the preseason and regular season kick off.

“I think we’ll be alright,” he said. “We have a solid team and a bunch of great guys. And I think we’ll be fine.”

More than four months into the NFL lockout that began March 12, owners and players made significant progress on the framework of a collective bargaining agreement that will end the work stoppage and bring preseason and regular season football games to fruition this fall. 

The two sides reached an agreement on the rookie wage system and salary cap on Thursday and free agency rules for the 2011 season on Friday. Talks resumed on Monday and could continue through Thursday, but there remains unresolved issues, including the players’ antitrust lawsuit brought against the NFL. 

Despite the lockout, NFL players have continued to prepare for the upcoming 2011 season, including Oher.

“I’m just working out and staying prepared for camp,” he said. “I think it’s going to come around the same time. It’s just being a pro and getting ready for football. We have people that let us know what’s going on every day. Whenever anything happens, somebody lets us know and we stay updated.”