The determination and dedication that Emmanuel Acho, linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, shows both on and off the field was instilled in him from an early age, thanks to his upbringing, and was later fueled during his four years at the University of Texas. This is in equal part thanks to his college coach Mack Brown, his older brother Sam, his father, and his faith.
Indeed, determination and dedication have made Acho who is he today. The offseason looks different for every athlete, and for Acho, it looked a lot like a classroom. He is currently pursuing his master's degree in kinesiology at the University of Texas with a specialty in sports psychology. After taking a nine-hour course load this summer, Acho is halfway through his degree program, with only 15 credit hours and a three-hour internship remaining (Acho says his ideal internship would be in the field of broadcasting.)
“It’s definitely hard being back in school. I have class every day, which is super tiring,” Acho said as he explained how his days ranged from Pilates to the weight room to class and studying. “It was busy, but it was good. The balance was hard, but I know football takes priority because that's what is paying my bills. And after football, it's just a matter of getting in the studying. And the time with family and friends.”
Going back to school while in the NFL is rare. “The latest statistic I heard was that 2 percent of players in the NFL go on to further their education. So, I know I'm among a dying breed,” Acho said. “I honestly just want to further my education and broaden my horizons from an educational standpoint in many different fields and areas. I know a lot of athletes probably aren't doing this, so I'm trying to put myself in the best position for life after football.”
Acho works as hard in the classroom as he does in his workouts.
Another part of Acho’s decision to continue his education was the message it sends to fans. “I definitely think it sets a good example, with all the negativity being portrayed on the television, whether it be through ESPN or your local news channel,” he said. “There are always the feel-good stories. The problem is, the good ones are rarely heard. So I'm just trying to further my education, first and foremost for myself, but [also for] anybody who catches wind of what I'm doing. To inspire them to push even further, even past their dreams. My dream was to play in the NFL obviously, but now that I've accomplished that, what else can I do? How can I reach further? How can I reach and attain more?”
When it comes to role models, Acho definitely had one in his older brother Sam, who currently plays with the Arizona Cardinals, also as a linebacker. On numerous accounts the younger Acho, now in his third year in the NFL (two of those with the Philadelphia Eagles), has said Sam “set the bar really high.”
“Sam is amazing, he's probably, or definitely the best person I know,” Acho said before listing the multiple accolades his brother has garnered. “We're incredibly close. We talk every day via text or phone. Going to UT is what strengthened our bond the most. Going from Sam and Emmanuel Acho to ‘The Brothers Acho,’ the name we received during our latter years at Texas, that definitely kept us close. And keeping that image, reputation, and name continues to keep us close on a daily basis.”
Acho calls somewhere between Austin and Dallas home. “Dallas is where I grew from an educational standpoint, but Austin is where I grew from an athletic standpoint,” he said. As for what he misses most about Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, Acho said, “Just looking up at 100,000 fans in burnt orange, supporting you. Some have class with you, some have heard you speak, some have walked around campus with you. Whatever the case may be, they’re just cheering you on, both individually and collectively as a team.”
“UT fans are very loyal. They stayed with us when we were 24-2 over my first two years at UT, and were with me when I was about 12-13 my last two years. Without them, I wouldn't have gotten as far as I have—especially on a personal level.”