I hate the Cubs
Join Date: Jul 2003
Re: NFL Draft Combine starts
I hadn't seen this article before I posted, the other, but I hope he reads the book before the draft. At least I hope someone does.
Bengals, NFL view Blind Side
By GEOFF HOBSON
February 18, 2009
Posted: 2:15 p.m.
For the first time in what looks to be ever in the history of the world's largest locker room laboratory, the NFL has the book on a prospect instead of the prospect of a book on a prospect coming out of the league's annual scouting combine.
The story of Mississippi left tackle Michael Oher has already competed with the unlikely tale of a small school quarterback named Barack Obama on The New York Times best seller list. So what more is left to know when the Bengals amp up their hunt for offensive line help when the NFL teams gather Wednesday in Indianapolis for the start of the six-day combine?
The 600 front office people and coaches will find something. The combine may have moved down the street from the RCA Dome to Lucas Oil Stadium, but the prime real estate is still the hearts and minds of more than 300 of the nation's top college players.
"They will find him physically shocking," says Michael Lewis, the man who wrote the book on Oher and knows him better than anyone outside his adoptive family.
"I think he's about 305 pounds now and a little bit skinny," Lewis says of the 6-5 Oher. "The thing about him is that he's so naturally wide. His quickness. His agility. He will physically floor them."
Lewis' previous work, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, surveyed how new age baseball thinking boosted the small-market Oakland A's past their free-spending foes. In The Blind Side, Lewis shows how fair and unfair life can be in documenting Oher's rise from basically being an orphan and a dead-end statistic on the mean streets and in the schools of Memphis to becoming one of the nation's top high school football recruits.
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander has reads books by Tom Coughlin and Warren Buffett this offseason. But Lewis hasn't made the list yet.
"I thought about it," Alexander says. "But I didn't want my evaluation to be influenced by the book."
Not to spoil it for him, but it is 339 incredulous pages of how Oher went from the worst in America to the best. He barely went to school for the first 15 years of his life, didn't have a father, struggled naming all his brothers and sisters, and his mother came and went in a haze.
It all changed when he was adopted by an affluent couple in Memphis that extricated him from a failed education and put his frightening skills on the football field at Briarcrest Christian School and then on to Ole Miss while introducing him to everything from foyers to fractions.
No wonder Lewis' wife blurted out after she heard the story, "I don't understand why you are writing about anything else."
Now, because he calls himself "a serial monogamist," Lewis has moved on to a book about "the current mess," which is not about the uncertain status of the Bengals offense but the country's economic collapse.
Although he says he's not close to Oher, Lewis has talked to him a few times and is pulling for him. He finds Oher bright, is awed by his physical gifts, and, as a writer, you have to root for the story. And from the NCAA lady to the tribal rituals that are college recruiting, Michael Oher is a hell of a story.
But because of Lewis' book, at least some people are now wondering about who's not running the 40-yard dash or bench pressing 225 pounds this week.
"It's horrible. The failure that is out there. It can be discouraging," Lewis says of the would-be athletes that never make it out of poverty. "But it does show that people can be helped if the will is there. The problem is, it's hard to see government having that level of intensity."
It is not really Oher's story. It's a story how Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy willed a kid exposed to virtually nothing into the first round of the NFL Draft. Or, as Lewis says, "how Leigh Anne became a mother to him because that is really what did it."
When the Bengals or any other NFL team takes Oher, they may consider taking Leigh Anne with one of their extra third-round picks. But Lewis thinks he'll be fine away from home.
"The biggest social risk was the Ole Miss football team," Lewis says. "Much more than the Cincinnati Bengals (or any other NFL team) because those are grown men working for a living.
"Michael liked living alone. He's a good citizen.
"I think the difference is going to be just making him feel happy and at home. That first year (in college) when he was starting it took him awhile to get comfortable."
And Cincinnati would be a good fit.
"It's close," he says. "Sean has some restaurants there."
Scouting is as much about the head game as it is the fundamentals and this is where the questions on Oher begin and end.
For Oher, the 15-minute interviews with teams are going to be more important than the three-cone drill. Each team gets to talk with 60 prospects of its choosing during the week, usually with a room full of scouts and coaches, and talking to strangers isn't Oher's strong suit. Teams are concerned about his focus and learning ability and this is one of his chances to nip it in the bud.
Oher's disinclination to speak is a frequent topic in the book, best summed up by Sean with, "The right answer for Michael is the answer that puts an end to the questions."
Which certainly is a smart thing and no one believes he's stupid despite his poor educational start.
But that won't do in Indy and even though Oher has come a long way, Lewis says, "I don't know how he'll be in a room with (people) he doesn't know. If chatty Michael shows up, he'll be fine
"He's really an intelligent guy. It takes him a little while with people while he's figuring them out. You come up and start yabbering away, and he's going to sit back."
Alexander compares the first interview of a prospect to a book he has read about a museum trying to prove the authenticity of an archeological find. The experts are called in and while they have no proof, they just know it's a fake.
"It's a gut feeling and you know in that first meeting; the first impression is big," he says. "When you have to start finding reasons to draft a guy, you're in trouble."
Alexander was in on the best interview most of the Bengals staff can remember in 2006 when they met with LSU left tackle Andrew Whitworth. They asked him a question they didn't think could be rehearsed and were blown away with the response. Two months later he was a Bengal with the 55th pick and he could be the answer at left tackle now if they don't think Oher and the other candidates are worthy with the sixth pick.
"We asked him to go through a typical week on how he would prepare for an opponent," Alexander says. "And you wouldn't believe how thorough of an answer he gave."
Thanks to the Senior Bowl, Alexander has already had his first impression of Oher. When the Bengals coached the North last month, they were able to spend a night interviewing the South players, and he got Oher alone.
"I like that," he says, "because we we were able to get them before they were agent-trained for the combine.
"We had a good conversation," Alexander says of his session with Oher. "He seems like a good kid. Obviously he's been in a position of responsibility for most of his life and that's a positive. And I think how he's dealt with the pressures that come with the book has been a positive."
But Alexander won't elaborate. It will be recalled that the Bengals stunned the world in 2002 when they took Arizona State left tackle Levi Jones with the 10th pick and if they go tackle again he wants to surprise Mel Kiper Jr., again.
But what Alexander will say is when the Bengals interview Oher in Indy, he won't ask any questions. He'll leave that to others. He got his answers the first time.
"After I write my evaluation," Alexander says, "I may read the book. I hear it's pretty good."
Good enough that Lewis is open to writing a sequel of Oher in the pros.
"If," he says with a laughs, "he talks to me."
Whenever you get mad over a called strike or ball on a close pitch, it's the equivalent of being mad at the QB pump-faking one time before throwing a pass in your average NFL game. ---Caveat Emperor