Ravens

Quick Links

'Blind Side' family relishes Big Easy Super Bowl

201301291322481293455-p2.jpeg

'Blind Side' family relishes Big Easy Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A knowing grin spread across Sean Tuohy's face as he considered the uncanny connections between the hit film that changed his family's life and the fact that Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher will play in his first Super Bowl in the Big Easy.

New Orleans is where Tuohy grew up and went to high school with author Michael Lewis, who wrote ``The Blind Side.''

The book led to the movie, which depicted the Tuohys' rewarding experience as Oher's adoptive family. Actress Sandra Bullock, who starred as Sean Tuohy's wife, Leigh Anne, owns a home in New Orleans.

``And there are people that think that's a coincidence,'' Sean Tuohy said. ``How stupid is that?

``We've got a huge sign in our garage that says: `We believe in miracles,''' he continued. ``For other people, it may be hard to understand that. For us, it's easy.''

It certainly seems like fate has given the Tuohys not just another measure of validation for the decision they made to nurture a child from a broken home, but also a platform to talk about their mission to help more kids.

``To me, when I look at Michael, the only down side of it is, you sit there and go, `If someone as immensely talented as Michael Oher, that society pretty much didn't value, almost falls through the cracks, can you imagine who gets left behind,'' Leigh Anne Tuohy said. ``So you sit there and go, `How many kids are out there that if given a chance can be a Michael Oher.'''

The Tuohys took Oher into their Memphis, Tenn., home when he was a teenager. Suddenly, Oher was living a life of privilege.

Sean Tuohy, a former college basketball star at Mississippi, owns dozens of fast-food restaurants and also is part of the TV broadcast team for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. Leigh Anne Tuohy has her own interior design firm.

The Tuohys helped Oher through high school, where his prowess on the offensive line landed him several scholarship offers at major programs. He chose Ole Miss, where he was an all-Southeastern Conference lineman before the Ravens made him a first-round draft choice in 2009.

Inspired by the public's response to ``The Blind Side,'' the Tuohys created the Making it Happen Foundation, which offers financial help to those committed to improving the lives of children living in poverty and unstable homes.

The Tuohys described their foundation grants as modest. In some cases, it might not be more than paying for a flight to help someone make a cross-country trip to adopt a child.

``We all can invest time, and that's made Michael, us investing time in this young man and loving him,'' Leigh Anne Tuohy said. ``That's given him the character, not the check. You need it to go hand-in-hand if it can, but we're all capable of investing time.''

Oher is pleased his adoptive parents are getting another platform to disseminate an important message, even if he is a little weary of talking about his life in the context of a movie.

``I'm tired of the movie,'' Oher said. ``I'm here to play football.''

The Tuohys arrived in New Orleans on Thursday afternoon and have a packed schedule through the weekend, including dinner with Bullock, who'll also attend the Super Bowl with the family on Sunday evening.

Bullock has remained friends with the family since filming the movie, and sometimes her charity work in New Orleans coincides with that of the Tuohys.

``She's a great advocate of doing the right thing. She's a big giver,'' Leigh Anne Tuohy said. ``She follows Michael's career every step of the way. It's funny. I'll get texts during the game: `Why did they do this? They shouldn't have done that.'''

Leigh Anne Tuohy, a petite blonde who talks a mile a minute in a thick Southern accent, is very similar to the way she was portrayed by Bullock - so much so that Sean Tuohy describes it as ``scary.''

``She hit it right down to the look, the action, the whole thing,'' he said.

While dining with a large group of friends and family at a downtown New Orleans restaurant, Leigh Anne Tuohy wore a V-neck T-shirt with a sequined Ravens logo on it. With this being Super Bowl weekend, she said she was ``going to be all sparkle and dazzle and rock-n-roll.''

``This is way more fun, more exciting, more hyped up than Oscar week,'' she said. ``Way more. It can't even compare.''

The Tuohys have been to Super Bowls before, but only as casual fans. Because Oher and their son S.J. (which stands for Sean Jr.) are such big sports fans, the family often planned vacations around major sporting events.

This, of course, is different, and not only because Oher is in the game. One of Oher's best friends is 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, a former teammate at Ole Miss.

``I can remember when Patrick Willis and Michael would sit in our living room and practice writing their autographs,'' Leigh Anne Tuohy said. ``Well now they're really doing that and we're just really proud.

Like Oher, Willis also was raised by foster parents.

``These are great guys,'' Leigh Anne Tuohy said. ``So their stories give us a platform to go around and say, there's a lot of great kids out there that need a chance.''

Quick Links

Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

snead-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Willie Snead has a knack for weaving through a row of linebackers in the middle of the field before making a clutch catch for the Baltimore Ravens.

Such was the case last Sunday against Tennessee, when Snead squeezed between two defenders for a 24-yard gain on a third-and-17 from the Baltimore 15.

"He's on the ground, he makes the catch, he's getting pushed back to the ground, stepped all over, and he just gets up and gives the first-down signal right there in the guy's face," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the kind of competitor he is. He's all ball, all the time."

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome rarely chases restricted free agents, but he made an exception with Snead this past offseason after it became apparent that the receiver's three-year run in New Orleans was done. One of Drew Brees' favorite targets in 2015 and 2016, Snead began last season with a three-game suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He then fought a hamstring injury and finished with just eight catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns.

Armed with a two-year, $10.4 million contract, Snead was delighted to arrive in Baltimore last April.

"Last year just left a really bitter taste in my mouth, the organization and how everything was handled," Snead said Tuesday. "To be a part of this organization was just a breath of fresh air. I wanted to go somewhere where I'm wanted."

It couldn't have worked out better for Snead -- and the Ravens.

"To see that you were right, to see all that come together and him play so well, being exactly what you thought you were going to get, is very rewarding," Harbaugh said.

Snead was one of three free agent receivers signed by Newsome in an effort to enhance a passing game that sputtered in 2017. Snead is the possession receiver, Michael Crabtree provides an outside threat and John Brown is the speedster.

Snead and Crabtree are tied for the team lead with 30 catches. Brown has 21 receptions for a team-high 424 yards and three touchdowns.

"I don't have the physical ability like John Brown to run by you, and I'm not big and strong like Michael Crabtree," Snead observed, "so I have to work harder than everybody else just to stand out."

That's how it's always been for Snead, who finally finds himself in a place where his talent is acknowledged and appreciated.

"This is a guy that's been doubted his whole career -- high school, college and the NFL," Harbaugh said. "So I'm fine if they keep doubting him."

After starring as a quarterback at Muskegon Heights in Michigan, Snead played three years as a receiver at Ball State before going undrafted in 2014. He finally made it to the NFL the following year.

"Coming out of college, (people said) I left too early, I wasn't ready to play in the NFL," Snead recalled. "And in the NFL, it was, `Is he fast enough to separate? Can he make those plays in clutch situations?' I've always been doubted."

Not anymore.

"I'll tell you one thing, Willie comes Sunday ready to play," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's one of the toughest guys I've been around."

This Sunday, the Ravens (4-2) host the Saints (4-1). Snead insists this wasn't one of those games that he circled on the calendar.

"This is another team. I have to approach it that way just to stay focused," Snead said.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton has seen enough of Snead this season to know he's a threat with the ball, and without it.

"He has a tremendous amount of grit. You see him making plays on third down," Payton said. "He's an outstanding blocker. He'll come across in motion, he'll get to the point of attack in the run game, but he'll also find the holes in the zone and man-to-man coverages."

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Snead has no problem mixing it up with anyone, large or small, at any spot on the field.

"He can go inside or outside, but man, he makes some -- scouts call them blood area -- catches," Harbaugh said. "In the middle, that's where he thrives."

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

zadarius-smith-ap.png
AP Images

Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS: