Oher relieved to sign deal, ready to focus on football

July 30, 2009 | Luke Jones

Michael Oher’s long journey to football success is well-chronicled in a best-selling book and an upcoming movie, but he needed to wait just a few extra days to officially realize his dream.

Oher officially signed a five-year contract on Thursday, ending a brief holdout.  The deal is worth up to $13.8 million and includes $7.8 million in guaranteed money.  With the contract now behind him, the projected starting right tackle is ready to focus on the game.

“I’m pleased to be here today, and I’m still excited,” Oher said.  “I’m very excited that the Ravens decided to pick me. I feel like I have to give it my all, and I’m glad we came to an agreement.”

General manager Ozzie Newsome described the negotiations as difficult, pointing to the team’s early start date for training camp and the lack of first-round picks that had signed contracts.  He credited vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty and Oher’s agent Jimmy Sexton for their creativity in working out a contract that would work for both sides.

In describing why Oher was such an attractive player to the Ravens, Newsome talked about his work ethic and the responsibility he feels for his teammates.  Oher felt he was letting down his teammates by holding out and wanted to report to camp as soon as possible.

The Ravens now possess the youngest starting duo of offensive tackles in Oher and Jared Gaither.  Newsome is confident that the Ravens are set at the tackle position for years to come and believes the offensive line can become one of the best lines in the league under the tutelage of offensive line coach John Matsko and assistant line coach Andy Moeller.

“You need depth. You have to have depth in this league to be able to play a 16-game season and hopefully get into the playoffs, and I think we have that,” Newsome said. “The thing I am most confident about is John Matsko and Andy Moeller.  And, I have been in this business for as long as I have, having been coached by some really good offensive line coaches—Howard Mudd comes to my mind—is to watch those two guys work with these guys, develop these guys and get these guys ready to play.  I don’t think any other team has two better offensive line coaches than we do.”

Oher’s story is one of triumph over tragedy.  His father was murdered while Oher was in high school and his mother was addicted to crack cocaine during Oher’s youth, so he bounced around between foster homes and attended 11 different schools in his first 9 years as a student.

At the age of 16, he was finally admitted into a private school and taken in by the Tuohy family, giving him stability and allowing him to begin his improbable journey to Ole Miss and, eventually, the NFL.  Oher’s story is the subject of the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis.  The book is also being made into a motion picture.

Despite his traumatic upbringing, Oher is ready to turn the page to the next chapter in his life—as a professional football player.

““It’s very special.  You have to forget where you came from.  You have to move forward and continue to work hard and just put all your trust in the right people, come to practice and play every day.”

Here’s a great video chronicling his improbable story:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FhlbsJUJ9Q[/youtube]

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