Left to right: Sean, Leigh Anne, Michael, Collins and S.J.
That morning, Leigh Anne Tuohy was driving along a Memphis street with her husband, Sean, and their two children when she spotted a young man stepping off a city bus. He stood out for many reasons. At 6'5'' and more than 300 pounds, he was certainly hard to miss. But Leigh Anne also noticed he was wearing nothing more than shorts and a T-shirt despite the plummeting temperatures.
Sean and her children, Collins and S.J., recognized the teen as Michael Oher, their classmate at Briarcrest Christian School. Though he'd only been enrolled at Briarcrest a short time, Michael was already well known by most students. He was by far the biggest student at school and one of few African-Americans.
In that moment, Leigh Anne says a sixth sense kicked in. She told her husband to pull over, and the Tuohy family made room for Michael in their car. "It was nothing and everything," Leigh Anne says. "It was just one of those things that you should do."
Michael's future changed the day he met the Tuohys, but his past was something he was still trying to forget. At a young age, Michael and his 12 siblings were taken from their mother, a crack cocaine addict, and placed in foster care. By the time Briarcrest took a chance on him, 16-year-old Michael had attended more than 11 different schools and was essentially homeless. At night, he crashed on couches and carried his few belongings in plastic garbage bags.
At first, the Tuohys invited Michael to sleep on their couch, but over time, he became a fixture in their grand East Memphis home. Eventually, Leigh Anne gave him a bedroom and bought him a bed. He later told her this was the first bed he ever had.