Leigh Anne Touhy, the real-life Memphis mother who was portrayed by actress Sandra Bullock in the hit movie The Blind Side, delivered an inspirational, heartwarming, and entertaining message at today’s Auburn Montgomery Outreach Business Breakfast Series in Montgomery.
The AUM Outreach Business Breakfast Series, partly sponsored by the Business Council of Alabama and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, is in its 30th year. Each breakfast usually attracts a significant participation but Touhy’s appearance was sold out.
Touhy, the adoptive mother of NFL football player Michael Oher, challenged the audience to step outside a comfortable existence and make a difference in someone’s life.
Touhy related how she was basically minding her own business when she spotted a teenage Oher on a street and ended up connecting with him, and he her, which led to his adoption into the Touhy family.
“All we did was turn that car around,” she said. “All we did was offer him hope and love and opportunity. We benefitted from that young man being in our home far more than he benefitted.”
Already playing prep basketball and football in Memphis when Touhy met him, Oher ultimately succeeded in school and football at the prep, college, and professional levels.
Oher was drafted by Baltimore Ravens in 2009 and earned a Super Bowl ring. “That kid is now the starting left tackle for the Carolina Panthers protecting Cam Newton’s backside,” Touhy said.
Touhy, an Ole Miss graduate, said that many coaches came to court Oher, including current Alabama head football coach Nick Saban who had coached LSU to an NCAA national championship in 2003 before leaving for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
“Michael would have gone to LSU if Nick had stayed at LSU,” Touhy said. Oher instead attended Ole Miss where he became a consensus All-American football player.
Bullock won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Touhy in the 2009 movie, The Blind Side. Oher was played by actor and singer Quinton Aaron.
Touhy said there was no agenda when she stopped to help Oher and the story of the Touhy family and Oher is more than just about Oher developing as a person and athlete. “It’s about learning to love someone and the opportunity to change someone’s life,” she said.
Touhy challenged the AUM breakfast audience to “get out of your comfort zone” and “turn around” as she did to become part of someone’s life.
“Every person in this room was born with the ability to change someone’s life,” she said. “It’s about realizing that to whom much is given, much is required.”