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April 30, 2009

Orgeron goes Hollywood in movie about Oher

Tennessee defensive line coach Ed Orgeron considered his trip to Atlanta this week one more stop on the recruiting trail. Only this time, he wasn't the most famous person on the scene.

Orgeron is in Atlanta this week for the filming of "The Blind Side," a movie adapted from the Michael Lewis book on Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher. Orgeron, the former Ole Miss coach, is playing himself.

"It will be fun," Orgeron said of the opportunity to see himself on the big screen. "The reason I did it, really, is it's an opportunity for recruiting. It's going to help us in recruiting to see one of our coaches in a movie that goes all over the nation. It's going to help. That's the big reason I did it."

Orgeron spent about six hours on the set Wednesday and planned to continue filming Thursday.

"It was relatively easy," Orgeron said. "There were a couple of lines that were really familiar to me, a couple of things that happened in recruiting that we recalled. It's a fairly simple role."

The movie stars Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw as Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, who assisted Oher in his improbable rise from a troubled childhood in Memphis, Tenn., to NFL draftee. The movie is directed by John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie") and is scheduled for a Nov. 20 release.

Oher attended 11 schools in his first nine years as a student and spent much of his childhood in foster homes. The Tuohys adopted him and helped him improve his academics to the point that he earned a scholarship from Ole Miss. Oher went to the Baltimore Ravens with the 23rd overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Orgeron said he has only read portions of Lewis' book, but his first-hand knowledge of Oher and the Tuohys made him interested in participating in the movie when the filmmakers approached him about it.

"I thought it was a great story," Orgeron said. "I love Michael, I love the Tuohys and I'm honored that they asked me to play a part."

Perhaps the toughest part of filming a movie on Oher is finding someone big enough to portray the 6-foot-4, 309-pound offensive tackle, who weighed as much as 344 pounds when he was 16.

The assignment has been given to Quinton Aaron, a little-known 24-year-old actor from New York who is getting his first starring role in a major motion picture. Aaron is 6-8 and about 380 pounds.

Orgeron coached at Ole Miss from 2005-07, the first three seasons of Oher's college career. He joined Lane Kiffin's staff at Tennessee this winter after spending the 2008 season as the New Orleans Saints' defensive line coach.

During breaks on the set Wednesday, Orgeron talked football with members of the crew. "There obviously were a lot of football fans," he said. "All the guys that are working on the set are very into football."

Those chats helped him start feeling at ease in this unfamiliar assignment.

"At first, I was kind of in awe a little bit," Orgeron said. "It was exciting. They make you feel comfortable, and when you get more comfortable, you get to perform well."

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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