Acho looks to older brother for guidance


Fanny Trang

Senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho takes the field at last November’s UT vs. Texas Tech game.

Lauren Giudice

Editor’s Note: This is the third in an eight-part series about Longhorns hoping to be drafted into the NFL.

At about this time last year, former Texas linebacker Sam Acho was eagerly awaiting draft day and would be eventually chosen by The Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round.

Now, his younger brother, Emmanuel, is playing the same waiting game. But don’t feel too bad for Emmanuel. He’s gotten some help from his big brother along the way.

“He helped me understand what was going to happen, so nothing shocked me,” Acho said. “As I put it, he gave me the answers to the test before I had to take it. I was not surprised by anything.”

Acho knew how to prepare for the physical and mental examinations that teams gave him throughout this process and during the NFL Combine. Although Emmanuel partially tore his quadricep while running the 40-yard dash, he felt he did enough to stand out to the coaches.

But Emmanuel isn’t stressing about who picks him on draft day or where he will go next year.

“In talking to my brother who went through the process last year, he told me not to worry where I got picked but just to get in the door,” Acho said. “As soon as you get in the door, which is the NFL, then you worry about making a team.”

Emmanuel knows that once he is drafted, there is still a lot of work to be done. But he feels that his versatility and high football IQ will help him come draft day. He said he doesn’t know if coaches have seen him play at the middle linebacker position enough.

But they definitely know he can play outside linebacker.

“Where you get drafted is more like stars coming out of high school; it is all about pride,” Acho said. “Once you are there, everyone is on a level playing field.”

On the field, Emmanuel and his brother are very similar, but off the field they are opposite. Emmanuel hopes Arizona drafts him so he can play alongside his brother again.

“I started playing ball before Sam and then all of a sudden he got really good, I don’t know where,” Emmanuel said laughing. “He stole the spotlight as usual.”

Once Emmanuel saw his brother get drafted, he knew that the NFL was a reality for him. He saw his brother improve during his senior year, leading the team with 131 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble, 18 quarterback pressures and six pass breakups.

While Emmanuel was helping the Longhorns bounce back from 2010’s 5-7 season, Sam had an outstanding rookie season for the Cardinals. He had 40 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles. But Emmanuel hopes to top those numbers in his rookie season.

“Anything I do well is really as a result of him,” Emmanuel said. “He’s wishing I probably play better than him, as am I. But he had a heck of a season.”

Emmanuel’s stats speak for themselves. During his four years in burnt orange, he had 278 tackles (159 solo), 41 tackles for loss, eight sacks, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. He helped Texas lead the Big 12 and rank sixth in the nation in rushing defense and 11th in total defense.

His teammates have been impressed with his performance and leadership over the years.

“One thing that stands out for me is that he’s been a consistent performer over the last four years,” kicker Justin Tucker said. “He racks up stats and not just those pretty stats. He’s in there making tackles and getting his nose involved on the plays.”

Beyond that, Emmanuel has been a leader for the Longhorns.

“I will say that Emmanuel has gotten a lot out of Texas,” head coach Mack Brown said. “But he has given more, and it has really been beneficial to the program.”

Emmanuel was named a finalist for the 2011 Lott IMPACT Trophy, Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and the Wuerffel Trophy. Both Emmanuel and Sam worked with charities off the field.

“Every time I look up he is doing something different,” Brown said. “With as hard as he works here, he goes to Nigeria for two weeks every summer with doctors and nurses. On a local basis, he is always at the hospital or reading to kids in East Austin.”

Although Sam has led the way and helped Emmanuel throughout this long process, they will continue to support each other and learn from each other next year — when they are both linebackers in the NFL.

“You know it’s not a reality yet, but come April 26, 27 and 28, that’s when it will hit,” Emmanuel said.

Printed on Thursday, April 19, 2012 as: Acho following familiar path to NFL