Soon after, Leigh Anne began including Michael in her nightly routine. "I kiss all of my kids goodnight every night and tell them I love them. Probably a month or so after Michael was in the house, I would just go into his room at night and do the same thing," she says. "It had probably been eight or nine months of that, and one night when I did it, he said, 'I love you too.'"
With the Tuohys' encouragement, Michael got his dismal grade point average up and went out for football his junior year. His size, quickness and protective nature made him a natural fit for the offensive line. He quickly became known as one of the best high school football players in the country.
As word of his talent spread, author Michael Lewis came to Memphis to write about Michael's journey from homeless teen to star athlete. Leigh Anne says Lewis was treated like the sixth member of their family. "He had his own key," she says. After years of extensive research, his book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, became a New York Times best-seller.
While primarily a book about football, Lewis' account also goes into detail about Michael's turbulent childhood, his decision to play football for the University of Mississippi—Leigh Anne and Sean's alma mater—and his unique relationship with the Tuohy family.
Leigh Anne says Michael always knew he was part of the family, but she and Sean decided to make it official after an attorney told them they couldn't add Michael to their children's trust fund. "I wanted to make sure Michael got a third of what we had if something happened," Leigh Anne says. "And I just said, 'Well, this is just ridiculous.'" The couple hired a lawyer and soon became Michael's legal guardians.
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