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Hugh Freeze on Michael Oher: 'I witnessed a family that totally took in a young man'

AUBURN — Former Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher created waves Monday when he filed a petition in a Tennessee court regarding his relationship with the Tuohy family, who Oher alleges never actually adopted him and tricked him into signing a conservatorship when he was 18.

Oher's story was the inspiration behind "The Blind Side," an Academy Award-nominated movie that was released in 2009. The movie, which starred Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy and Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy, is predated by a book with the same name, written by Michael Lewis and published in September 2006.

The conservatorship allowed the Tuohy family to withhold Oher's royalties from the book and film, Oher alleges. The Tuohys have denied keeping money from Oher, saying he received $100,000. The family did not push back on the conservatorship's existence.

Oher, who was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, was coached by current Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze at Briarcrest Christian School in Tennessee. Freeze joined Oher at Ole Miss in 2005, as then-Rebels coach Ed Orgeron hired him as an assistant athletic director for football external affairs.

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"Listen, I love Michael Oher. He's like part of our family," Freeze said Thursday. "And I love the Tuohys. I think it's sad, and certainly don't claim to understand all the ins and outs of adoption, conservatory, all of that. But I know what I witnessed, and I witnessed a family that totally took in a young man. And I think without that, there is no story. ...

"I know this, if Michael Oher called Sean right now and said, 'Let's work this thing out,' Sean and Leigh Anne would be there in a hurry to hug his neck and tell him he's loved. I hope he feels that. And, certainly, I don't claim to — until you walk in people's shoes, I don't claim to have all the answers to anything."

Freeze became Ole Miss' tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator in 2006 and held those roles until Orgeron was fired in 2007. Freeze then became the coach at Lambuth from 2008-09 and at Arkansas State in 2010. He returned to Oxford in December 2011, when he was announced as the Rebels' 37th coach.

"Whatever happens will happen, of course,” Freeze said. “I think the facts will come out. But, you know, I love both sides of it. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy did something that most families — a lot of us talk about doing things, they actually put the shoes on and pulled the boots up and got in the arena and did something. I think that's admirable."

Richard Silva is the Auburn athletics beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at rsilva@gannett.com or on Twitter @rich_silva18.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Michael Oher: Hugh Freeze gives take on situation with Tuohy family