Diamond in the Rough

April 25, 2009

The NFL Draft commences in a little more than an hour from the time I write this post.  Not surprising, the pre-draft headlines are focused on Matt Stafford, out of the University of Georgia, and Marc Sanchez, out of Southern Cal, two high profile quarterbacks.  But the real story of this draft, no matter where he ends up, is Ole Miss Offensive Lineman Michael Oher.

The video above gives an overview.  The best video I’ve seen, giving much more of the whole story, was on ESPN earlier this afternoon, which you can watch by clicking: Adopted Family Helps Oher

Oher grew up on the streets of Memphis. His mother was a crack addict. His father had been murdered.  Oher was homeless and left fending for himself by age 6.  He didn’t know his correct birthday or his own real name.  Because of his size and athleticism someone sent him to Briarcrest Christian School to see if he might help out the athletic program.  Briarcrest officials recognized that Oher was completely unprepared for the academic rigors of the school, but also knew that he had no place to turn. So they allowed him in school, on academic probation and inelligible for any athletic competition until he was caught up in school. 

As amazing as that part of the story is, there is more.  While enrolled at Briarcrest Oher was still largely on his own. That is until one cold Thanksgiving night, a school classmate driving with her family spotted Michael on the street wearing shorts and a thin T-shirt.  The Tuohy family turned their car around picked Oher up and took him to their home.  Over time the Tuohy family bought Michael clothes and food, and allowed him to stay with them – until they finally adopted him into their family. Loved for the first time in his life Oher progressed in the classroom and on the football field. He enrolled at Ole Miss and became an All American. Today he will become a first round draft choice – and a millionaire.  But I suspect Michael Oher will be the one man drafted who understands that love far outvalues cash.

The story has already been made a book, The Blind Side, which has been on the New York Times Bestseller list.  It has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. And a motion picture is in the works.  But it is the story that may not be told that also fascinates me. It is the story of those whose faith was expressed through tangible love. It is the story of the Tuohy family and the folks at Briarcrest Christian School.the-blind-side

Think about it. The Tuohy’s were a well-to-do Memphis family.  They had children, including an attractive teenage daughter, who I’m sure they were concerned to protect.  And here is this big, huge, black guy, from the streets, that they invited into their home.  I know race should not matter, but it is Memphis. But even apart from race, this is a huge, undisciplined, teenager off the streets.  Most people would have just kept driving. Some kind folks may have bought food and clothes. Others may have gone so far as to make sure he found a home.  But risk the unknown, and with children in the home? I imagine few would have done that.  But the Tuohy’s did. They were compelled by love. And their love transformed a life.

I also have to commend the headmaster at Briarcrest.  Not many administrators would have done the same thing. Some may have admitted Oher because of his athletic prowess. But how many would admit him simply to help him?  Briarcrest had no reasonable reason to expect that Oher would ever succeed in the classroom. When he got to the school he carried a 0.4 gpa.  But these people cared. They lived out their faith, and helped this helpless young giant, even when they had little hope to benefit from it. They reflect what Christian Education ought to be about.

This story makes you feel-good, no matter how it is told. But I stand in awe as I see the Apostle Paul’s words come to life on ESPN:  “The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5.6)

One Response to “Diamond in the Rough”

  1. Dennis Griffith Says:

    Congratulation to Michael Oher. He’ll be headed from Memphis to Maryland… drafted #1 by the Baltimore Ravens.

    If you get a chance to watch the clip of his interview right after being selected… what a sharp and humble guy!


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