Beyond the Game: Real-life kid from 'The Blind Side' now works for Arkansas football

Beyond the Game - SJ Tuohy (KATV photo)
At left, Jae Head plays SJ Tuohy in "The Blind Side" (2009). At right, SJ Tuohy smiles. (Alcon Entertainment | KATV)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KATV) - His office is decorated with reminders of a childhood that inspired one of the most charming modern sports movies.

There's a Baltimore Ravens helmet, a Briarcrest Christian High School helmet, but perhaps surprisingly, no Ole Miss helmet. That's because Sean "SJ" Tuohy Jr., whose likeness was portrayed as the cute 11-year-old boy in "The Blind Side," now works for Chad Morris at Arkansas.

"Everyone wants me to stay as this 11-year-old kid," said Tuohy, an assistant director of football operations. "Some people think I 'Benjamin Button'-ed it, never aged or went backwards. I think it's disappointing to someone when I say that's me. 'Oh man, I thought you were much smaller and cuter!'"

The 2009 movie follows Michael Oher from impoverished upbringing to adoption by the well-to-do Tuohy family. Naturally, the film's success continues to affect Tuohy. His continued relationship with his brother is just as pertinent.

"You look back at it and think, I wasn't really like that, that's not how it was. [But] that's what it was like," he said.

"[Michael] excelled in football, he excelled in basketball, everyone socially loved him. He was someone you look at like, 'Man, I hope I can be like that one day.'"

How accurate was the film? Did he really try to get leverage with college coaches recruiting Oher?

"Leverage with everyone," he said, laughing. "I wanted leverage on whoever it was, wherever it was. I was making sure there's an in for me there."

Did he really try to negotiate with Nick Saban?

"I don't know how well the negotiating went. I think he was like, 'You'll get what you get and you'll be happy with it.'"

What about his mother? How accurate was the character played by Sandra Bullock?

"She's much worse in real life than Sandra Bullock was in the movie. That was two hours of my mom. Think about that as a 24-hour day, all the time."

Where the movie stops, however, Tuohy's story starts. He'd often hear taunts while playing sports in high school.

"'Good job, Sandra' chants and I remember we were warming up one time playing a school in football and they played the whole 'Blind Side' soundtrack before the game.

"I can't control any of that stuff and just laugh it off."

Tuohy played three years of college basketball before graduating from Loyola University Maryland. At the time, Oher was playing for the Baltimore Ravens.

Unsure of what he wanted to do next, he turned to a family friend: Morris. The Morris family had vacationed near the Tuohy family in Destin, Florida.

"Coach Morris said, 'Why don't you come play football for me at SMU?'"

"Then, 10 minutes later, the phone rang and I looked at it and saw it was Leigh Anne Tuohy," Morris said. "If you know Leigh Anne, you know if she calls, you better answer the phone. I answer the phone and she was dead serious. She says, 'Chad, we're serious. He's coming. Do you want him or not?' I'm like, 'Yes ma'am. We want him.'"

SJ was a holder for the Mustangs. The next season, he coached special teams. Then, Morris brought him to Arkansas.

Perhaps no veteran coach has a more unique perspective when it comes to recruiting than this young assistant.

"Obviously, he's been in athletics his entire life, when you look at his family," Morris said.

"I know how hard those guys worked to get Michael, so I think it makes you realize what you have to do to be in that world," said SJ.

He said his ultimate goal is to be an athletics director one day.