Many real college football coaches played themselves but at former schools: Phillip Fulmer (was Tennessee head coach, now out of football), Lou Holtz (was South Carolina head coach, now does TV), Houston Nutt (was Arkansas head coach, now Ole Miss head coach; when he comes to speak with Michael Oher, he notes Leigh Anne Tuohy's Ole Miss cup and, smiling, giving a nod to his job as head coach there), Ed Orgeron (was Ole Miss head coach, now assistant at USC), Nick Saban (was LSU head coach, now Alabama head coach), Tommy Tuberville (was Auburn head coach, now Texas Tech head coach).
The Lawrence Taylor hit on Joe Theismann happened November 18, 1985, during a Monday Night Football game between the Giants and Redskins. It was the most gruesome injury even seen on a nationally-televised regular season NFL game. Taylor, who frantically motions for help after the hit, claims that he has never seen replays of it, and never wants to.
Both Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw have strong ties to the South. Bullock's father was from Alabama; she was born and raised in Virginia, was a high school cheerleader (like Collins Tuohy), dated a football player and attended college in North Carolina. McGraw was born, raised and attended college in Louisiana and loved playing sports as a kid even though he was unaware at the time that his biological father, former Philadelphia Phillies' pitcher Frank "Tug" McGraw, was a professional baseball player.
While Collins Tuohy is shown playing volleyball and as a cheerleader in high school, and a picture of the real-life Collins as an Ole Miss cheerleader is shown during the closing credits, Collins also was a state pole-vault champion.
In real life, Michael Oher attended Briarcrest Christian High School. After reading the script, Briarcrest administrators decided not to allow the school's name to be used. They were particularly concerned about scenes that showed Briarcrest teachers expressing doubt about Oher's learning ability. The filmmakers still used Briarcrest's school color (green).
Julia Roberts was offered the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy before Sandra Bullock, who turned it down three times because of her concerns about playing the part of a devout Christian. During the first couple of weeks of shooting, she thought her acting was so bad she considered dropping out. John Lee Hancock had worked so hard on the project she didn't want to ruin it. However, she didn't quit and ended up winning the Best Leading Actress Oscar for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy.
When Quinton Aaron auditioned for the film, he was working as a security guard between acting gigs. After his audition, he left a card with his contact information and offered to work as a security guard on the set in case he wasn't selected to play Michael Oher.
Michael Oher was an experienced football player when he enrolled at Briarcrest. He developed into a premier left tackle, and was heavily recruited by top schools in the Southeastern Conference. Oher was less than pleased by the movie's depiction of him as passive, unskilled big guy who was only barely acquainted with football. Nor was he enamored by the Forrest Gump-like depiction of himself in the film; in real life, Oher is taller and more athletic.
In the volleyball scene, after the game Collins Tuohy says to Leigh Anne Tuohy that's she's going over to Cannon's to study. According to the book, Collins Tuohy was dating Cannon Smith, son of the founder and CEO of FedEx Corporation.
Just before Leigh Anne Tuohy enters the gymnasium before the volleyball game, she mentions Patrick Ramsey. In real life, Leigh Ann was an interior decorator for Patrick Ramsey, then a NFL quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
When the Tuohys are riding home from S.J. Tuohy's school play, Sean Tuohy says the "quesadilla saved our ass". According to the book, Taco Bell sales were down at one time and Sean's stores were in some financial trouble. Then, Taco Bell introduced the quesadilla and sales increased and Sean's stores prospered.
While Miss Sue fibs to Michael about where the bodies are stored, she is telling the truth about the University of Tennessee and its association with the FBI. The University has a facility, started by William Bass (often called BARF - Bass Anthropological Research Facility), that does study the stages of decomposition of human remains in a variety of scenarios.