The Tuohy Family: 10 Facts About The Blind Side Family

Most of us met the Tuohys in 2009 when the Oscar-nominated film "The Blind Side" hit the big screen. The movie, which was based on the book "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Sean Tuohy's childhood pal Michael Lewis, centered around the true story of how Michael Oher, a Black American teenager from the gang-riddled projects of Memphis, Tennessee, who was taken into the home and seemingly hearts of the affluent Tuohy family. The movie implies that the Tuohys became Oher's adopted family, providing him with a stable home, a college education, and the encouragement to pursue a football career that landed "Big Mike" in the NFL. But is the story too good to be true? Oher says yes. 

In a 2023 petition, Oher claims that the Tuohys falsely led him to believe that he was legally a part of their family and instead used him to pad their already substantial pocketbooks through a conservatorship that gave them the power to act on his behalf. Oher, who was 18 when he agreed to a conservatorship, is asking for it to be terminated and for any backpay the family has earned off of his name and story, specifically from "The Blind Side," which grossed more than $300 million. 

A statement issued on the family's behalf explained that while they will not oppose the termination, they "will not hesitate to defend their good names, stand up to this shakedown and defeat this offensive lawsuit."

Leigh Anne Tuohy wears many hats

The portrayal of the feisty family matriarch Leigh Anne Tuohy earned actor Sandra Bullock an Oscar, but who is the woman that author Michael Lewis once called a "warrior princess," and Bullock admitted to being "scared" of when they met? 

The real-life Leigh Anne is a Memphis native who, just like Michael Oher, famously attended the University of Mississippi. In between classes, cheerleading practice, and sorority events, the bubbly blonde met her future husband, basketball star Sean Tuohy. The couple wed in 1982 and went on to have two biological children, Collins and Sean Junior (SJ), before bringing Oher into the fold.

According to her website, Leigh Anne wears many hats. She is an interior designer whose client list reads like an MVP roster, with Peyton Manning and Scottie Pippen among her clientele. Her work has been featured on popular television shows, including "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" and "Family Addition with Leigh Anne Tuohy," in which she helped families in the process of adopting foster children prepare their homes. Leigh Anne is also a best-selling author of "In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving," a book she co-authored with Sean, and "Turn Around: Reach Out, Give Back, and Get Moving." If all that weren't enough, Leigh Anne is also a motivational speaker and noted philanthropist. 

The Tuohys founded an evangelical church and nonprofit organization

"The Blind Side" struck a chord with the public and left many wondering how they could make a difference for children in their own communities. Enter the Making It Happen Foundation. Established by the Tuohy family in 2009 (the same year the movie came out), the nonprofit organization was designed to serve underprivileged youth. According to the website, its mission is "to live and share our commitment to faith, family, and others while opening doors to promote awareness, provide hope, and improve the standard of living and quality of life for all the children fighting to survive in the invisible cracks of our society."

While the whole family serves on the foundation's board, it is Leigh Anne Tuohy who is the most vocal advocate for fostering and adopting children in need. Through her speeches and her #ForeverFamilyFriday Instagram posts that spotlight a child in need of a home, she spreads the message that "families don't have to match." 

According to Leigh Anne, part of what drives her philanthropy is her faith. In his book, Michael Lewis quotes her as saying, "God gives people money to see how you're going to handle it." He adds, "And she intended to prove she knew how to handle it." As Leigh Anne told the Houston Chronicle, she and her husband founded the Grace Evangelical Church in Memphis, and their children attended the Briarcrest Christian School, where they met Michael Oher. 

It was Sean Tuohy who first reached out to Michael Oher

According to Leigh Anne Tuohy's website, her husband Sean Tuohy attended Ole Miss on a basketball scholarship and had a record-breaking career that included leading the school to its first SEC championship. He was such an outstanding player that he was reportedly drafted by the New Jersey Nets in 1982 but turned down the offer "to continue his career overseas before returning to the US to be with his father during his final days," according to the site.

While he may not have turned pro on the court, Sean is an avid basketball fan and often served as a consultant to the Briarcrest Christian School coaches, which is how he met Michael Oher.  He'd heard about the gentle giant Oher, but it wasn't until he spotted him at basketball practice that he approached him and facilitated the relationship that would later become the inspiration for "The Blind Side," per Michael Lewis' book. "When Sean Tuohy saw the new kid sitting in the high school gym, he saw a boy with nowhere to go but up," asserts Sean's biography. "The question was how to take him there."

Collins Tuohy is a cheerleader turned bakery co-owner

"The Blind Side" famously depicts Collins Tuohy Smith following in her mom's cheerleading footsteps — and it is true she has a love for athletics. She and Michael Oher had this in common. "I cheered for Michael for seven years while he played football," Collins said of their high school and college years during an interview. In addition to cheerleading, Collins was a Tennessee State Champion pole vaulter and was elected homecoming queen in high school, with Oher serving as her escort. In turn, she escorted him to the NFL draft headquarters in New York for moral support and seemed to continue to be his biggest cheerleader long after she'd hung up her pompoms. 

However, Collins made a name for herself outside of sports, too. She co-owns the Memphis-based Whimsey Cookie Company and serves as the director of sales and marketing. Collins also established herself as a social media influencer, evolving from her former travel, fashion, and lifestyle blog, "Collins Closets," to Instagram and TikTok, where she shares all things beauty, fashion, home decor, food, travel, and more. More than her 300,000 followers combined look to the stylish Collins for the best deals, the hottest trends, and the greatest hacks. Her posts are peppered with lots of "y'alls" and she's as likely to recommend a $20 dress from Walmart as a pricey designer bag from Paris.

One of her biggest passions, however, is her role within the Tuohy family foundation, Making it Happen, where she advocates on behalf of children in need of forever families.

Collins Tuohy's husband has ties to The Blind Side

It was like something straight out of a Hollywood movie when two of Memphis' most well-known families came together via the marriage of Collins Tuohy to Cannon Smith, son of FedEx founder Fred Smith. The couple married in April 2016 in what was arguably one of the most extravagant celebrations Memphis had ever seen.

Collins and Cannon, who had been together for 11 years, pulled out all the stops, turning their wedding into a one-of-a-kind, two-day celebration at the Hunt and Polo Club. Night one called for an intimate ceremony and seated dinner, while night two was a huge, full-blown party. The bride told Style Me Pretty, "I would say we both love traditions as much as we like to shake things up, and our wedding was a direct reflection of that."

The marriage of the Ole Miss cheerleader to the University of Memphis quarterback seemed written in the stars, or at least in the script. Cannon's older sister Molly is the co-founder of Black Label Media and the person responsible for bringing "The Blind Side" to the executives at Alcon Entertainment, who would ultimately produce it. And the owner of Alcon Entertaimment? None other than FedEx founder and Collins' eventual future father-in-law, Fred Smith. Talk about a family affair! 

SJ Tuohy now works with student athletes and has addressed Michael Oher's allegations

In "The Blind Side," Sean Tuohy Junior, or SJ as he is more commonly known, was best remembered for the demands he made on the college coaches who tried to lure Michael Oher to their schools. In reality, SJ says there may have been some artistic liberties taken.

In an interview with KATV, he explained, "I don't know how well the negotiating went. I think [coach Nick Saban] was like, 'You'll get what you get and you'll be happy with it.'" Like the rest of the family, SJ was athletic, playing basketball while getting his undergraduate degree at Loyola University Maryland before heading to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he played football while earning his master's degree.  

These days, SJ is the executive director for The Kingdom NIL, an organization with a mission to "enrich, enhance, and empower the lives of UCF Student-Athletes," according to its website. As of this writing, he also serves on the board of his family's foundation and is the only one of the Tuohy children to have spoken out about Oher's allegations. "You will never hear me say anything bad about Michael Oher in any capacity other than I'm upset that he feels the way that he does ... I think some of the things that were mentioned in the probate or book or whatever I don't necessarily agree with and or remember happening like that," SJ told Barstool Radio.

The Tuohy patriarch has been considered 'an American success story'

In the book upon which "The Blind Side" was based, author Michael Lewis writes, "Sean was an American success story: he had come from nothing and made himself rich." While he didn't have much, he attended private school in New Orleans, according to his wife's website. Perhaps it was this personal connection that inspired him to later help students in similar situations. "In a couple of cases he had, in effect, paid for [Briarcrest students'] tuition, by giving money to a school fund earmarked for scholarships for those who couldn't afford tuition," Lewis wrote in "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game."

Sean's basketball skills earned him a scholarship to Ole Miss, and he took what he learned both on and off the court to turn himself into a success. Sean made his fortune by building a company that owned and operated several popular fast food restaurants, which he reportedly sold for $220 million.

Speaking with the Daily Memphian, Sean, who certainly wasn't hurting for cash by the time the Hollywood film came out, addressed Michael Oher's allegations that he was placed into a conservatorship for the family's financial gain. "We're devastated," he said. "It's upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children. But we're going to love Michael at 37 just like we loved him at 16."

The Tuohys were not the only family who took in Michael Oher

Fans of "The Blind Side" may recall that the Tuohys were depicted as the heroes who took Oher into their home, with the implication being that he had nowhere else to turn. But that may not have been entirely accurate.

While the Tuohys were undoubtedly the most famous family to put a roof over Oher's head, they were by no means the only ones. The movie took some liberties in the telling of Oher's tale, which included leaving out the fact that he did not immediately move in with the Tuohy family after that famous scene in which they see him walking alongside the road. Oher lived with a classmate and his father, a mechanic named Tony Henderson. From there, he reportedly bounced around through several Briarcrest families, including the Tuohys, whose home he eventually ended up staying at for longer periods of time than the others, according to The Athletic.

Oher, who became a ward of the state at the age of 10, said that he felt especially welcome at the Tuohys' home. In Michael Lewis' book, Oher is quoted as saying, "When I moved in with Leigh Anne and Sean, I felt loved, like part of a family. In the other houses, I didn't feel like part of the family. I didn't feel like they wanted me there." 

Leigh Anne Tuohy grew up in 'a very racist household'

According to Michael Lewis' book, Leigh Anne Tuohy admitted to being raised in what she called "a very racist household." Her father, a U.S. marshal, held firm beliefs about the Black community and tried to instill his beliefs into his daughter, pulling her out of public school and enrolling her at Briarcrest Christian School when integration was put into effect.

Leigh Anne did not share her father's way of thinking, marrying a person whom she told Lewis is "a man who doesn't know his own color." "The Blind Side" film portrays a fearless Leigh Anne standing up to fans who were yelling racist slurs at a football game and calling out her friends for their racist comments disguised as concerns. But there are some who believe the movie itself was the ultimate form of racism.

An opinion writer for MSNBC found the film to be "typical, Hollywood while savior nonsense," equating the story to "a twisted version of 'Beauty and the Beast.'" Oher himself has been vocal about the way the film portrayed him as unintelligent. In his 2023 memoir, "I Beat the Odds," Oher wrote, "I survived the hands dealt to me from the ages of three to 18, before the Tuohys ever entered the scene like you saw on the big screen."

The Tuohys enjoy a lavish lifestyle

From the moment the movie shows Michael Oher stepping into the Tuohys' luxurious Memphis home, it is easy to see why anyone would be seduced by their lavish lifestyle. The Tuohys live large. One look at any of their social media feeds, and you will see beach houses, yachts, private planes, European vacations, and extravagant parties. Although both Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy enjoyed successful careers at the time the movie was made, they seem to have stepped it up a notch since becoming "The Blind Side" family, with an estimated net worth of $75 million. 

Michael Oher's petition claims the Tuohys received $225,000 each from the film, along with a small percentage of the net proceeds; however, Sean Tuohy denied the claim, telling the Daily Memphian, "Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each." Whether it was five or six figures though, either is a relatively small amount to multimillionaires. The fact remains that the movie put the Tuohys on the map and opened doors that benefitted them financially, including television appearances, speaking engagements, and book deals. 

Their lifestyle isn't a secret — Leigh Anne shared on social media that she rented a party bus to take friends to the "Barbie" movie while Sean took a Ferrari for a few spins around a race track, as reported by the Daily Mail. For her part, Collins has been keeping her followers up to date on extensive redecorating projects and taking them along on a Disney cruise. While Oher has also witnessed success, he keeps a notably lower profile.