Former NFL Linebacker, TV Analyst, Author and Humanitarian Sam Acho talks Super Bowl and his role as International Justice Mission Ambassador
Sam Acho has been a busy man during Super Bowl Week in Los Angeles. The former NFL linebacker, VP of the NFLPA, author, ESPN analyst and humanitarian has helped launch Team Freedom's latest initiative "Free to Play." Free to Play and Team Freedom are creating a world where children are free to play, free to dream, free to live safely. It's just one of the many ways Acho is making a difference as an International Justice Mission Ambassador.
Acho joined WBGO Studios podcast SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about IJM and why he's so passionate about the organization that partners with local authorities in 14 countries to combat slavery, child trafficking, and violence and abuse against women and children.
"I've seen what first hand what International Justice Mission is about to do, to go into different countries and change justice systems. I was in Guatemala a few years ago leading pro athletes on a trip. We got a chance to see women and children who were being abused. We got to speak up for them and help IJM punish the perpetrators right. What we're doing now is saying everybody wants to be involved. Join us, go here and be a part of this change."
Acho is also the founder and president of Athletes for Justice, an organization that works to unite professional athletes and everyday athletes to fight injustices around the world. He has been featured in Super Bowl commercial highlighting his social justice efforts in the City of Chicago.
In 2016 and 2017, Sam was the Chicago Bears' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, the leagues only award that recognizes both civic and professional contributions.
Sam takes his role of vice president of the NFL Players Association very seriously. He has been serving that organization since his second year in the NFL.
"Obviously the NFLPA, one of the jobs is protect current players, and so you think about some former players, and yes there's protections but the main job is your negotiating collective bargaining agreements. I got a chance to be in some of those negotiations last year and over the last few years. Those are the things you started thinking differently from a PA perspective rather than just a former player."
The husband father credits for success and humanitarian outreach to his parents, who he says gave him a solid, insightful and worldly foundation.
"My parents were born and raised in Nigeria. Every summer and even at Christmas we'd go back there and visit family, visit friends and just see a different world. Even more so, my parents would go to Nigeria with doctors and nurses, I would go as well. We'd do these medical mission trips. We'd go to different villages in Nigeria and be able to help people with hernia issues and people with cataracts and glaucoma. So like going, helping and serving has been something that's kind of been in my blood. And you think about what IJM does. Some people can't even go to get help because they're not free enough to, they would be abused on their way to go and get some kind of medical treatment or anything like that."
Sam played college football at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received the William V. Campbell Trophy for being cllege football's top scholar-athlete. he was on the NCAA TOP VIII Award, which recognizes the top eight student-athletes in all of sports, and was named the 2010 Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year. In 2011, the 6'3 star was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and played four seasons as a linebacker with the team. He then signed with the Bears for the 2015-2016 season and played four year in Chicago before spending the 2019 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Acho's first NFL sack came against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he took down Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The NFL veteran's first book, Let the World See you: How to Be Real in a World Full of Fakes, was released in October, 2020.
"It's a book about what it means to be seen, to be known, to be loved and to be authentic."
Sam and his brother Emmanuel who also played in the NFL, were amazing high school athletes at St. Mark's in Dallas, Texas. Sam was the state private school track champion in both shot put and discus. Sam still holds the school record in the 12 pound shot while his brother broke the school record in the discus. Sam was named to the all conference football team during his last three years in high school and average 12 points and 15 rebounds per page during his senior year on the basketball team.
Right before heading out to LA for Super Bowl Week, Sam says he was able to spend time and have dinner with his three young children and wife and even play catch with one of his sons.
"I just try to be present and listen."
You can SEE the entire SportsJam conversation with Sam Acho here.