"He's a grown man," Oher says when asked how their relationship has evolved. "He's a mature grown man. It's like as brothers get older, they become more friends. It's not like he's 10 years old anymore."
'A very easy transition'
Before Oher ever entered his life, Tuohy was destined to deal with some degree of public scrutiny, at least around Memphis. That comes with the territory when your father is the Southeastern Conference's all-time assist leader, a prominent businessman and a television analyst for the NBA's Grizzlies.
I was so young I probably didn't realize what was going on as far as people knowing my dad," he says. "So I kind of just grew up accustomed, not to being in the spotlight necessarily but to having the public eye on you a little bit."
Despite his terrific career at Ole Miss and inner fire for the game, Sean Sr. played a hands-off role in his son's basketball development. SJ remembers watching tapes of his dad playing against Charles Barkley or getting punched in the mouth by Kentucky's Dirk Minniefield. But if anything, he wanted to hear more expert criticism of his own developing game. Usually, all he got was a clap on the back and a "You played great."
SJ was often the only white kid on his rec-league teams, so he says he thought little of it when Oher, a massive black teenager who attended Briarcrest Christian School with Collins, moved into the Tuohy home.
They shared a bathroom and became fierce rivals on the family's pop-a-shot basketball hoop.
"It was a very easy transition," SJ says. "Looking back, I can't even differentiate when Mike wasn't there as opposed to when he was. We'll be talking about family vacations at dinner, and he'll be like, 'I wasn't on that.' And I'm like, 'Oh, I thought you were.'"
He was also too young to think much of the fact that Michael Lewis, his father's old high school pal from New Orleans, started hanging around in preparation to write about Oher and the Tuohys.
Even when Lewis' book came out and sold well, it didn't make much of a ripple among SJ's middle-school set. He had his mother highlight the parts that mentioned him and skimmed those. But that was about it.
The most memorable scenes featured SJ hitting up the most famous college football coaches in the country for VIP access to their programs. A few even promised him his own locker beside Oher's.
'Watch your blind side'
When the movie rights sold, Lewis told the Tuohys not to hold their breath on a film actually coming out. He was wrong, of course, and SJ remembers several moments that hinted at the madness to come.
He created a Facebook page around that time and logged on after not checking it for a while. He had more than 1,000 friend requests, most from people he'd never met. His personal page had to be converted to a fan page.
Then there was the day when his mother dropped by Briarcrest to bring lunch and introduce him to "Sandy." He grins as he recalls how his usually severe Bible teacher asked if she could accompany him to the hall to meet Bullock. Hundreds of kids approached at lunch to inquire about his brush with stardom. By dismissal time, the local television trucks had arrived.
None of it seemed too bad though. He met the big-screen SJ Tuohy, child actor Jae Head, who promised to get him "as many dates as possible" based on the movie. That sounded good.
Once "The Blind Side" came out in November 2009, SJ noticed immediate changes in the opposing crowds at his basketball games. "Good job, Sandra," they'd mock, whenever he drew a charge. "Watch your blind side."
At one school, a kid with pillows stuffed up his shirt to mimic Oher's build ran up to SJ with a sign that read: "I have no place to go. Can I go home with you?"
"I'd have been in a fight every night," says Sean Sr., remembering his volatile personality as a prep player. "But he understood that you can't legislate ignorance. Here he was, this kid who was just trying to do the best for himself and who opened his home to a kid who needed help. And that's the kid you want to boo? But he wasn't fazed by it."