Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher brought his story of triumph to the students at Severna Park High School on Tuesday. His message wasn't about winning on the football field, it was his philosophy on winning at life.
The school held two assemblies in the auditorium as they hosted Oher and his teammate Ravens fullback Vonta Leach.
Oher is not only famous for being an offensive tackle in the NFL, but also for his book, "I Beat the Odds—From Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond," which was given to the entire school by donations as part of the Fifth Annual STAR, or Students Taking Action Responsibly, program running this week at the school.
SPHS students prepared questions in advance to be posed to the guests seated on stage in the auditorium. Oher was flanked by students who had participated in the STAR week art and poetry contest.
Oher spoke to this year's STAR theme of "Inspiration" by talking about overcoming the obstacles of his youth, including drugs and alcohol, providing a glimpse into his past that was fraught with temptation and challenges.
"Resist drugs and alcohol. That's all I saw in my neighborhood. I wouldn't be sitting in front of you guys if I hadn't. I wanted to be a leader, not a follower," Oher said.
Being a foster child showed him the importance of parents to say "I love you," when asked what he would say to a younger Oher.
When asked who his role models are, Oher answered with the name Michael Jordan who he said inspired him at the age of 7 to want to play sports.
"Just watching him—he instilled in me the drive and determination to get where I am," he said. Oher also said he looks up to fellow Baltimore Ravens player Ray Lewis.
"He's been around a long time. I get advice from him," he said.
While Oher readily answered questions on many topics pertaining to his life, here are some of the more light-hearted questions posed by the teens:
"What is your favorite food?" and "What is your favorite holiday?" were ones they could easily relate to.
"I love to eat," Oher replied. "Shrimp and fettuccine, chicken too. I love food, I could eat all day.
"Holidays are a big deal in my family. I love gifts at Christmas," he said.
When asked what he does to blow off some steam, Oher said that he plays video games, takes a walk, soaks in the hot tub or reads when he's stressed out.
When Oher was asked if he would change anything in his life if he could, he had a straight forward answer:
"I wouldn't change anything. The hardships made me a better man. It keeps me humble and I stay grounded," he said.
"There was a lot of hard work and preparation in planning for our guest speaker, Michael Oher, and it couldn’t have gone any better. Our expectations were exceeded and I believe strongly that the message was well received by our students," Patrick Bathras, principal of SPHS, wrote in an email to Patch.
"Michael’s inspirational life, books and movie are a great example of what we are trying to teach our youth. I have received a lot of positive feedback from our students and staff," he wrote.
Students streaming out of the assembly were impressed with Oher's message.
"I loved it [the Michael Oher assembly], it was very inspirational and he's overcome so much—it was good for the school," said SPHS junior Sam Phillips.
"It was good how he overcame all of the drugs to succeed," said SPHS senior Adam Gadver.