Sam Acho can’t think of any other time in his life when he didn’t live up to expectations.
The senior defensive end joked that the lowest point of his athletics career happened in third grade when he missed a wide-open shot for his Tornadoes basketball team that would have won them the game. But then he got serious and explained he’s never experienced more adversity in his life than he has this year with the Longhorns.
From his freshman through junior years at Texas, Acho was a part of a team that had a 35-5 overall record and went to three bowl games, including last year’s national championship.
Last season he played a significant role in helping the Longhorns defense rank as one of the most elite in the entire country.
But now in his senior season, the Longhorns sit uncomfortably with a 4-5 record and may not become bowl eligible for the first time in 13 years if they don’t win at least two of their next three games.
But rather than sulk and give up, Acho sees this season as a blessing in disguise.
“I’m learning so much about myself, about this team, about persevering,” Acho said. “Obviously I would love to win, but if it had always been all roses my entire time in college, I wouldn’t have learned how to deal with situations that will face me later on in life.”
Acho’s maturity is refreshing. He doesn’t buy into what critics and fans think because he knows how hard his teammates and coaches work every week to fight on Saturdays.
“This team is never going to give up or quit no matter what,” Acho said. “We’re still working hard, we’re still fighting. We’re going to find a way to win.”
Mack Brown feels the same way. Following last Saturday’s massacre at Kansas State, the head coach gave a very pointed pep talk in the locker room.
“I told the kids that tough times are when people define who they are. I told them to stay strong and that I’m going to compete as their head coach and they need to do the same,” he said.
Though the Wildcats embarrassed the Longhorns with a 39-14 victory, Brown didn’t feel like his players quit.
“They actually played hard against Kansas State,” he said. “It’s hard to believe when the game turned out as bad as it did. But they didn’t quit.”
Brown said Monday that people expect him to be crawling on the ground with the way this year has gone. But he refuses to give up or give in to losing because he knows that his players are watching every move he makes and the one time he breaks down, so will the team.
This season has caused Brown to question his role at Texas more than he ever has in his 13 years. But after talking things over with his wife Sally, the two came to a mutual decision.
“Our role is to really try to help these young guys grow up and learn from hard days,” Brown said. “Because they’re going to have hard days their whole life. All of us do. When your back is to the wall, when you are struggling and when everybody is pointing at you, that is when you better stand up and stay strong.”
The Longhorns are at a low point right now, but the fact that they don’t have a quitter’s attitude is admirable.