I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond by Michael Oher with Don Yaeger
Gotham Books 2011
Michael Oher has had so many other people tell his story that he must have felt he finally had to tell his own story in his own words.
Michael Oher may be the most well-known offensive lineman in the history of the National Football League after the movie The Blind Side, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Michael Lewis, was a hit. The Blind Side tells of an inner city Memphis kid who grew up virtually homeless but rose to become the first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.
Anyone who read or saw The Blind Side knows the basics of Oher's story. He grew up in drug-infested neighborhoods in Memphis with an indifferent mother addicted to crack cocaine, who often left her many kids to fend for themselves and was at times homeless.
Oher grew up often not knowing where his next meal was coming from or even where he would sleep. In and out of foster care, sometimes homeless, always destitute for the basics—direction and care—his character and work ethic, along with a lot of help from some very generous people, eventually landed him at a private school in a well-to-do part of Memphis.
The amazing aspect of Oher's success, beyond people like the Tuohy family who took him into their home and made him part of their family, is his work ethic and perseverance through severe disadvantages.
Yes, Oher got lucky that there were enough people to help him along the way achieve his dreams. But it takes more than being huge and athletic to take those opportunities and turn them into success.
While there are many, many, better off, less disadvantaged athletes who never graduate from college or achieve any level of true success in professional sports, Oher graduated and has had success as a pro.
Regardless of talent and background, that takes a lot of hard work. And despite the unbelievable disadvantages, Oher took the opportunities in front of him and made a success of his life.
In this book, Michael talks about his life growing up, his love for his siblings and his adopted family, the Tuohys, but he also has a message. And that message is to tell those in similar circumstances not to give up, work hard and take the opportunities afforded to them and make the best of them.
While not all kids in Oher's situation will be quite as lucky and probably not have quite the perseverance, Oher's success creates a model and gives hope to others.
And another amazing thing about Oher is how self-aware he is. He notes that the life of a professional football player is short, so he doesn't live lavishly and plans to save and have a plan for the future. He understands that he doesn't know everything about the professional game of football and understands he has to continue to learn and improve. It's a rather refreshing perspective.
This book is readable, interesting, and while it will not really tell much that is not basically known about Oher's life and success, it is his message of hope and perseverance that makes it a worthwhile read.
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