The motion picture "Blind Side," based on the best-selling book by New York Times writer Michael Lewis, will be released nationally on Friday. And I'm in it--for all of about 60 seconds.
"Blind Side" is about Michael Oher, the former University of Mississippi football star who grew up homeless in Memphis, Tennessee, and was a first-round pick in the NFL draft. In the current issue of "Sports Illustrated," NFL writer Peter King rates Oher, a dominating offensive lineman, on his All-NFL team for 2009.
In his book, Lewis devotes a chapter to me, about how I evaluate high school players, my relationship with college coaches and how I helped to discover Oher and how coaches such as Nick Saban, Phil Fulmer and Lou Holtz became aware of the 310-pounder.
I am going to New York on Tuesday for the premiere of the movie. Then I'm going to Oxford, Mississippi, to promote the movie prior to Saturday's LSU/Ole Miss game.
Originally, I had five minutes of exposure in the film, which stars Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Ray McKinnon. But it was cut to about a minute. My big scene, in which I was talking to McGraw and McKinnon about Oher, will end up on DVD. In the film, I'm in my office receiving the tape that tipped me off about Oher's potential and ability.
I have a union card as a member of the Screen Actors Guild. I spent two days in April and two days in June on the movie set in Atlanta, Georgia. It took 12 hours to shoot one scene.
But it was great time. I was very inquisitive because I've never been on a movie set before. I did a lot of observing and talking to McGraw, who is the son of former major league pitcher Tug McGraw, and McKinnon about sports and movies. McGraw isn't just a great country singer but also a good actor.
The movie, I am told, has been well received. A lot of football geeks who said "Blind Side" is their favorite football book noted that the movie focuses mainly on Oher's personal history rather than how his left tackle position was elevated to the second-highest paid position in the NFL.
There are several big-time football coaches in the movie--Saban, Holtz, Fulmer, Tommy Tuberville, Houston Nutt and Ed Orgeron. Ironically, none of the six still have the jobs that they had at the time they were actively recruiting Oher.
One of the primary producers of the film is Molly Smith, daughter of Fed Ex owner Fred Smith. She persuaded a lot of the coaches to participate in the film, which shows how a homeless kid from Memphis develops into a college football star and becomes a first-round draft choice in the NFL with a multi-million dollar contract, then becomes a starter as an NFL rookie...and now an All-Pro performer.
The toughest thing to do, said publicist Chip Namias, was to cast Oher himself. He is 6-4 and weighs 310 pounds. How many actors fit that description? Certainly not Denzel Washington.
Enter Quinton Aaron, a young actor who grew up in New York. He lost weight to play the part. But he got his body in condition and learned the nuances of offensive line play. It was very challenging to find someone who had acting experience and the physical presence and athleticism to play the role.
The movie also tries to appeal to a wide cross-section--Bullock fans, McGraw fans and sports fans who go to sports movies. If people haven't read the book and aren't familiar with Oher's inspirational story, they will be amazed. This isn't a spinoff of "Pride of the Yankees."
And don't go to the popcorn counter or you'll miss my minute of fame.