SPARTANBURG, S.C. — When people first meet Michael Oher naturally they want to ask him about the 2009 hit movie ”The Blind Side,” which is based on his life as an underprivileged youth growing up in Memphis, Tennessee.
However, the Carolina Panthers starting left tackle would prefer to leave the notoriety he garnered from the film in the past.
As strange as that sounds to fans of the film, Oher is not a big fan of ”The Blind Side.”
He doesn’t like the attention it has brought on him, saying that offensive linemen shouldn’t be in the limelight.
”We just want to be under-the-radar, humble guys, just like to do our work and don’t want to be noticed,” Oher said. ”When we’re being noticed it’s not a good thing, getting flags and things like that. … You like to take the humble approach and let everyone else get the credit. If everyone else is getting credit we’re doing our jobs.”
Panthers center Ryan Kalil has spoken with Oher about the movie and says ”Mike, (is) not a fan of the movie.”
”The way they portrayed his youth as somebody who didn’t know a lot about football and how lucky he got, just talking to Mike and getting to know his background, he maybe wasn’t as clueless and he was portrayed in the movie,” Kalil said.
”And he cares about his identity being about what he does as a football player, not in a movie that Hollywood makes. So I can understand it.”
Of course, that hasn’t kept Kalil, the team’s resident jokester, from giving the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Oher some good-natured ribbing about the movie.
”When I tell him the actor that plays him looks identical to him, well, he really, really appreciates that,” Kalil said tongue-in-cheek.
Right tackle Mike Remmers said he’s taken to imitating some of the characters in the movie, too.
”Mike just sort of laughs it off,” Remmers said. ”He knows we’re all playing around.”
Teammates say that Oher has fit in well on an offensive line that returns four other starters.
Oher is expected to replace Byron Bell at left tackle. That position was solidified when Jonathan Martin injured his back and did not report to training camp.
After starting all 80 games during his first five seasons in Baltimore and helping the Ravens win a Super Bowl, Oher wasn’t re-signed in 2013 and left to join the Tennessee Titans last year.
But he struggled and was cut just one year into a four-year, $20 million contract.
Now he’s looking to jumpstart his career in Carolina, calling this an important season.
”For me personally, yeah I probably do have to get some things done and continue to prove myself, and prove myself even more this year,” said Oher, who signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Panthers.
As for the movie, Oher said he can’t recall the last time he watched it even though it’s regularly shown on television.
He said he’s doing a better job of ”moving on” and accepting the exaggerated Hollywood story line, instead focusing on the positive impact it has had on people around the world.
”You’d be surprised how many letters I’ve gotten, people have adopted kids or how many lives have changed,” Oher said. ”I’m definitely excited about that because coming from poverty in the inner city where I come from, so many people look up to me. They say `if I can do it, they can do it.’ So I’m definitely happy about that and proud about that part of it.”
Teammates say they can understand why the perceptions and pressure the movie has put on Oher might be a little taxing on him.
But they’ve tried their best to make him feel at home.
”I think from a fan’s perspective they see him as the guy from the `The Blind Side,”’ Remmers said. ”But in here, in the locker room, he’s Michael Oher. He’s just a good guy. I am sure a lot of people have this perspective about him from the movie. But here, he’s just Mike. He’s one of the guys.”