He notes that SJ watched Oher shrug off similar abuse as one of the country's top offensive line prospects, "so he had a good role model."

SJ says he was more worried about Leigh Anne, who was apt to go right back at the fans who derided her boy. She might have brought some of it on herself, he says with a chuckle, recalling how she'd show up in a glittery Michael Oher jersey with matching purple boots.

'You'll love Loyola'

Despite such wild scenes, Tuohy's routines didn't change much. He still went to school every day, still obsessed over sports. The pass-first guard knew he wanted to play college basketball, weighing a chance to walk on at Ole Miss with offers of more playing time at several Division-II schools.

But then a close friend of the family, who happened to live in Baltimore, mentioned Loyola as a possibility. At a Ravens game that fall, Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos playfully flicked ice chips at SJ, letting the kid know he was interested. One Saturday morning, a groggy SJ took a call from Patsos. "You'll love Loyola," the voluble coach barked. "We don't do crap before 10:30 a.m."

"You know, I think I might want to play for that guy," SJ told his dad. Sean Sr. was happy to hear it. Patsos reminded him of his own father, a garrulous Irish Catholic coach from Chicago.

SJ says many people have overblown proximity to Oher as a reason for his college choice. It was a nice bonus, he says, and the brothers hang out weekly. But mainly he sought a place where he could play and be independent of the same old Memphis scene.

Even though he sat out his first year as a non-scholarship redshirt, the season featured a few reminders of SJ's popularity. He remembers one night, walking off the court with his teammate R.J. Williams, who had just played a great game. "Can I have your autograph?" a kid asked, nodding to Tuohy rather than Williams. "I busted out laughing," he says.

"We really can't watch the movie the same," says senior forward Jordan Latham. "Me personally, I can't watch it, having gotten close to him and his family. It's just too weird."

That's not to say Tuohy's background is a big deal to his teammates, who seem to enjoy his company and appreciate his effort in practice.

"They've all become friends and they've all become part of the family," says G.G. Smith, who succeeded Patsos as Loyola's coach before this season. "He doesn't walk around acting like he's big and bad."

As a player, Smith says, SJ is a good shooter and decision maker but needs to improve his ball handling to earn more minutes.

With SJ come Sean Sr. and Leigh Anne, who fly up for as many home games as they can, especially if Oher and the Ravens are playing here the same week. For a recent game at Reitz Arena, the Tuohys sat along the baseline, Sean Sr. in a white Loyola jacket and Leigh Anne in stylish boots a similar green to the team's color. They watched quietly, a mode Sean Sr. says they adopted after observing other fans ripping into their kids during high school games.

SJ jokes that he'd only transfer from Loyola if his parents buy a house near campus, something they did when his siblings attended Ole Miss. His words touch on a real issue, however, because Oher could be elsewhere next year after his contract with the Ravens expires at the end of this season.

Would SJ follow?

"I love Loyola, our coaches, everything about it," he says. "So if he left and everything else is still intact here, I wouldn't have any problem [staying]. Mike made it a lot easier to come here, but it wasn't like I was coming here because of Mike. I came because Loyola's a great school."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/childswalker