Sam Acho, linebacker, University of Texas winner of the 2010 William V. Campbell Trophy
like payback for a job well done raising Sam, Doc said, and loud enough for Christie Acho to hear, "That's exactly what I said to my wife. He took it from me. I taught him well."
Not sure if the rest of us would have been so thoughtful at age 22.
To me, this was sort of déjà vu, taking me back to 1998 when the Cowboys selected Greg Ellis with the eighth pick in the draft out of North Carolina, where Longhorns head coach Mack Brown had been before coming to Austin that year. And I distinctly remember Brown, when asked about Ellis, saying something like if anything happened to his kids he'd want a guy like Greg Ellis to raise them.
Sam Acho seems to have similar character.
He looks you right in the eye when he speaks. He thinks before he says. He has an easy demeanor, it seems. And that smile, it's infectious. Captain material, if you know what I mean.
Plus, the guy can play a little football now. We're not talking about some pure polite scholar. Not only was he first-team All-Big 12 in 2010, but he certainly proved his worth at this year's Senior Bowl as well, selected the South's Most Outstanding Player thanks to recording a sack, a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss in the game while playing defensive end. He gave Colorado's Nate Solder, considered one of the best offensive tackles in this draft, a hard time.
Again, though, he's a 'tweener: Not quite big enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 at the NFL level, but borderline agile enough to play outside linebacker. That's why it seems he's best suited for a 3-4 defense, and the NFL scouts worked him out as a linebacker during UT's Pro Day. As for his preference, he could care less. Acho just wants a chance to play, an attitude which already gives him an increased chance of making an NFL 53-man roster.
Understand, his rise in the game is rather remarkable, having played his high school ball at a small, private college prep school, and knowing that his parents thought all along that "when we sent him to St. Mark's," his dad said, "we were thinking, 'get a good education, go to Ivy League.' That was our plan. Let's go to a school where you can get strong academics." As Sam grew and caught the attention of school's the size of Texas, their horizons grew, too.
That's the type of influence you get when your dad is a doctor of psychology and your mom is a nurse practitioner, both making a habit of going back to their homeland of Nigeria for two weeks each summer with the Living Health Ministries they helped form to give out free medicine to the people in need. And in doing so have exposed their sons - Sam's younger brother, Emmanuel, also plays at Texas - to their roots, taking them along on these mission trips where they help handing out medicine and moving patients for treatment.
Eye-opening and humbling, Sam Acho says.
"You know the Bible talks about it's better to give than receive," Sam Acho said near the end of our conversation, "and you think about that and you think it's like a burden to give, but when you give you feel so much better than when you receive."
See what I mean? This a true college student-athlete, one who gets it, and made the most of his scholarship that many like to minimize when it comes to college athletes, insisting they are getting ripped off since these athletes get "nothing in return" for helping schools make millions of dollars. Well, Sam Acho graduated from the UT's business honors program in 3½ years and spent the previous semester on postgraduate studies while crafting his football talents at the same time.
My, what a novel concept.
So yeah, pretty sweet story, something we all need a little dose of now and then.