We pause from OU week to recognize the accomplishments of one of UT's all-time greatest student athletes, Sam Acho.
They say that football is a selfless game. But after this summer's downpour of scandal-driven headlines, we might do well to add: "On the field, that is."
Although former University of Texas defensive lineman Sam Acho gave us plenty to cheer about with his performance on the field, it is his selflessness off of it that is most worthy of celebration. Until recently I knew a lot more about Sam Acho the football player than I did Sam Acho the good Samaritan. I had a vague idea that he was a good student and active in various community improvement projects, but only upon reading about everything he's done did I fully appreciate just how genuine, accomplished, and special an individual he really is. Sam Acho not only exemplifies the spirit of the student athlete, he makes me enormously proud to be a Texas Longhorn.
As accomplished a football player as is Acho, his record off the field is even more superb. To begin with, he was a fantastic student, graduating from the prestigious Business Honors Program at UT, where he was a three-time Academic All-Big 12 selection, and a two-time Academic All-American. As an independent study during his senior year, Acho studied elite athletes' ethical failures, analyzing them as "brand failures" that tarnish their reputations and smother their earning potential, and proposing ways that athletes could avoid such destructive behavior.
Although star football player and rigorous student sounds like a full-time gig to me, not for Sam Acho. It all started when Acho decided to join his parents on a medical mission to poor rural communities in Nigeria, helping to provide quality medical care in regions where it is severely lacking. That first experience opened his eyes and sparked his commitment to service, and Acho has since returned four more times, even taking members of the football team with him.
"We'll bring 40 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists," Acho said. "We'll go and basically give free medicine to the people in Nigeria."
Not that serving one amazing cause was enough for Acho, of course. He also mentored third- and fourth-grade students at an Austin middle school, led the football team's charity drive for Orange Santa, and taught English as a second language to adults at a community center. And no player on the team was more involved in the football program's community service programs than Acho, who visited sick children at the hospital, and found time to volunteer for Wonders and Worries, the Rise School, and the Arc of Capital Area.
After his senior season, Acho's dizzying array of on- and off-field accomplishments resulted in his becoming UT's second winner of the Campbell Trophy -- the "academic Heisman" -- awarded annually to the top student-athlete in football.
Deserving as he was and is of our recognition and admiration, a quote from Herb Miller, Acho's independent study professor, captures the best part about him.
"He's not self-serving, and that's what makes him special."
Like I said: Sam Acho makes me proud to be a Texas Longhorn. Hook 'em.
To see the rest of the Buick Human Highlight Reel, go to www.NCAA.com/Buick.