Jim Morris Predicts Michael Oher's Future: 'He'll Have A Legacy That Will Be Unparalleled'

November 16, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Perhaps more than anyone, Jim Morris knows what Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher will experience in the coming weeks.

Like Oher and the soon-to-be-released movie, "The Blind Side," Morris' life story was made into a major motion picture in 2002.

But Morris was retired from Major League Baseball for more than a year when "The Rookie," starring Dennis Quaid, was released.

Not even "The Rookie" was a rookie when his life was immortalized on film - demonstrating Oher's unique situation. The 23-year-old is believed to be the first rookie in professional North American sports to have a major-studio movie made about his life.

"I can really appreciate what he is going through," said Morris, who was a high school science teacher when he tried out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the urging of the kids he coached. "If I would have tried to play baseball while the movie was going on, that would have been very tough." Morris, now a motivational speaker, was 35 when he debuted as a left-handed reliever for the Devil Rays on Sept, 18, 1999. Three years later, he watched his biopic for the first time at a religious broadcasters' convention in Nashville, Tenn.

"I was supposed to speak right after it. I had to sit there for a few minutes and collect myself. I was blown away," said Morris, whose movie was directed by John Lee Hancock, who also wrote and directed, "The Blind Side." "I had to stop crying before I went up. It was overwhelming."

As Morris has gotten older, he said he has embraced his movie and the impact it had on others. He said that may happen with Oher, too.

"I feel for him now, but at the end of the day, when he retires and settles down, he'll have a legacy that will be unparalleled," Morris said.

One of the most significant differences between the two is that Oher's day job has him in the trenches of the NFL, waged in a physical and mental battle that includes opponents willing to do nearly anything to gain an edge.

"In football, a guy really looks for advantages and talks trash," Morris said. "I have enough football friends to know that even on the golf course they don't let up on you."

The jokes have already started coming from Oher's teammates. Ravens veteran center Matt Birk said he is demanding two free movie tickets from the rookie. After seeing the trailer, some have needled Oher about the girth of his character.

The opposition might be rougher. But it might not matter.

"There is so much going on in the context of the game," right guard Chris Chester said. "You are not thinking about what that guy thought about your movie or what Siskel and Ebert thought about your movie."

Safety Ed Reed expects that most players, teammates and rivals will not only respect Oher's story, but will connect with it.

"He has been through the lowest point, on the street, and now he is at the highest point to where he can take care of his family," Reed said. "He can look back at it and say, 'I was that and now look at me.' So there is nothing bad that he should hang his head about. Because look what has come from what he has been through. It's a great thing."

"Most people would tell me that as the [memory of the] movie fades, you'll speak less and less. Quite the opposite has happened. I've been busier and busier over the years," Morris said. "With the era we are in now ... with the job losses and the economy, we need good messages and we need people to stand up and deliver them. And I think those messages will stand the test of time."

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