WESTMINSTER, Md. -- For Baltimore Ravens rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher, signing his five-year, $13.8 contract Thursday marked yet another milestone in his winding life journey.

"It is very special," Oher said during a press conference at the team hotel. "You've got to forget where you came from and move forward and continue to work hard and put all your trust in the right people."

It's hard to forget from where Oher came.

He was homeless for a time as a teenager in Memphis, Tenn., with his mother addicted to crack cocaine, before he was adopted and embraced by a wealthy family that enrolled him in an exclusive private school. Oher became an All-American at Ole Miss and was the 23rd overall pick in the draft.

The right tackle missed the first two days of practice during a brief holdout while his agent, Jimmy Sexton, and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty finalized his deal.

"I was disappointed I couldnt show up the first day when the rookies reported," Oher said. "I feel like I let my team down."

With four-time Pro Bowl tackle Willie Anderson retiring this offseason, the Ravens are banking on Oher being ready to anchor the right side opposite left tackle Jared Gaither. Oher lined up with the first-team offense throughout the offseason minicamps.

"As we said on the day of the draft, we traded up to get him for a reason," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Nothing that we've seen since that day has changed our mind. We feel even better about it."

Oher's life story is the subject of a New York Times best-selling book called "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game." And his personal story is being made into a movie starring Kathy Bates and Sandra Bullock.

Oher said that the Ravens can count on him, on and off the field.

"I'm a very emotional guy, hard-nosed, physical," Oher said. "I have a passion for the game. Football is very important to me, to help my team win and get over the hump and be there with them."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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