Back in the 2000s, Michael Oher has fled from Ole Miss, and “all hell broke loose.” Antonio Turner, the teammate Michael beat up for insulting Leigh Anne and Collins, is taken to a coach’s house, while the injured little boy is rushed to the hospital. The boy’s father, a tutor named Bobby Nix, says he’ll be pressing charges.
The situation is dire for Michael: he’s hurt a little child and, on an even more basic level, he’s behaved in a way that suggests that he’s not mature enough to handle the pressures of college and football stardom.
Michael Oher drives around Oxford, angry and confused. Recently, the NCAA has been saying that the Tuohys have used him for his talent, but throughout the entire ordeal Michael has remained loyal to his adopted family. He doesn’t believe that Sean and Leigh Anne were manipulating him. He looks at his phone and sees that Sean has been texting him.
Without forgiving Michael for his actions, one can understand that he’s been under a huge amount of pressure, both from his coaches and from the NCAA. Furthermore, one can admire Michael for being so loyal to his adopted family, even after the NCAA has accused them of manipulating him.
Meanwhile, Sean Tuohy gets a call from Coach Orgeron, who explains that the little boy who got hurt needs stitches, but is otherwise fine. However, the police are still going to arrest Michael Oher. Sean decides that it’s time to call a lawyer. He talks to his old friend Steve Farese, a prominent attorney. Steve’s first reaction is that the police probably won’t arrest Michael, since the child’s injury was an accident. Suddenly, Sean gets a call from Michael. Sean tells Michael to turn himself in to the campus police. Shortly afterwards, Michael meets with Coach Orgeron, who just tells Michael, “It’s lonely at the top,” and tells Michael that there will be “many Antonio Turners” down the line.
Although Michael certainly deserves some punishment for his actions (at the very least for beating up his teammate), it’s disturbing to consider that, were Michael still living in the inner-city, he might have gone to jail for the same crime, due to institutional racism among the police and in the justice system. Also disturbing is the way that Coach Orgeron practically excuses Michael’s actions and even subtly suggests that Turner, not Michael, is to blame for his own violent attack. Orgeron’s remarks hint at the entitlement of college athletes—instead of treating them like responsible adults, their coaches are willing to forgive almost anything as long as they keep playing successfully.
After hitting Antonio Turner, Michael Oher does some mild community service, but is never prosecuted. He settles into success. Meanwhile, Briarcrest receives record numbers of applications from black inner-city kids, though the schools’ new president doesn’t want to admit any of them. Other Briarcrest teachers think that Michael’s success will help spread the Christian gospel. Although Michael isn’t the most outspoken proponent of Christianity, one teacher, Jennifer Graves, notes, “Moses stuttered.”
It’s unclear whether Lewis sees anything wrong with what he’s describing. One could argue, for example, that the fact that Michael gets off with some mild community service after beating up a teammate and hurting a little boy is unjust, and might contribute to Michael’s sense of entitlement and invincibility. Furthermore, the fact that Michael’s success has seemingly done nothing to make Briarcrest more accepting of black students is a tragic reminder of the de facto segregation of Memphis and wealthy white institutions in general.
Even after Michael chooses the University of Mississippi, Phil Fulmer remains obsessed with him. He tries to convince Michael to transfer to the University of Tennessee. Fulmer also spends time scouting football practices at Briarcrest, where he notices other promising players. Sean Tuohy continues to help out with the Briarcrest football team, though he’s furious that Briarcrest won’t admit more inner-city black students.
Even if Michael’s success as a football player doesn’t result in more black students at Briarcrest, his time at Briarcrest at least changes the school into a Division I magnet school, as evidenced by Fulmer’s ongoing presence.
Leigh Anne continues to spend lots of time with Michael Oher. It often occurs to her that there must be other people just as talented as Michael living in the Memphis inner-city. She reads about a talented football player from the inner-city, Arthur Sallis, who fails to make the grades to go to college, and ends up going back to the inner-city. Around this time, Sallis is shot by two robbers, and nearly dies. Shortly after he leaves the hospital, he’s murdered in his home, at the age of twenty-three. Inspired by the tragedy of Arthur Sallis, Leigh Anne decides that she wants to create a foundation for people with athletic ability who lack the academic talents to go to college.
Leigh Anne, just like her husband, plans to continue helping disadvantaged youths, not just Michael. Although she loves Michael dearly, she’s realistic about the fact that there are many other people like Michael living in Memphis: people who never have the opportunity to realize their potential. By sponsoring a foundation, Leigh Anne hopes to help young people in need and give them the opportunity to succeed at sports while also getting a college education.
Due to his success, Michael Oher gets lots of calls from poor friends, many of whom want money. Denise calls him more than she ever has. It occurs to Michael that many of the people with whom he grew up never worked for anything. However, Michael wants to use his good fortune to help his old friend, Craig Vail. Michael has always admired Craig for his modesty and pride—he doesn't present himself as a victim. Michael reunites with Craig. He tells him that he’s been doing well with football, and claims that he could take on Dwight Freeney, the best pass rusher in the NFL.
Michael’s judgment that the people in his old community haven’t worked for anything seems unduly harsh: while certain people in his life, such as his mother, have certainly been irresponsible, many others—not just Craig—have worked incredibly hard just to stay alive. While Lewis doesn’t really explore this, it seems as if Michael is becoming distant and unsympathetic to his old community, and is starting to buy into the typical white conservative mindset that poor people are poor because they’re lazy or undeserving. Michael’s rise to success is impressive and inspiring, but potentially disheartening—he’s climbed the ladder of success, but it seems as if he might be pulling up the ladder behind him.
Dwight Freeney has had a remarkable career with the Indianapolis Colts. He sees himself as the successor to Lawrence Taylor. In 2006, Freeney hears of a talented kid named Michael Oher, who claims that Freeney is no match for him. Freeney later learns that Michael is three hundred and fifty pounds, six foot five, and runs the forty-yard dash in less than five seconds. When he finds out about Michael, Freeney doesn’t smile. He just says, “You tell Michael Oher I’ll be waiting for him.”
Freeney’s words (and the fact that he doesn’t smile as he says them) might suggest that he’s intimidated by Michael’s awesome size and talent as a left tackle—or, at the very least, that he knows for sure that Michael will join the NFL one day, and looks forward to the challenge of facing him. (And, indeed, Michael is later drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.) In all, Michael is a phenomenal football player, and, as the book draws to a close, his rise to success in the NFL is all but certain.