St. Mark's School of Texas
National Rank at DE: 23
Overall State Rank: 28
Star Rating: ****
An Inside Texas conversation with St. Mark's head coach Hayward Lee on Sam Acho:
Inside Texas: What kind of a person is Sam? When speaking to him, he seemed exceptionably personable.
Hayward Lee: He is a great person. I mean Sam is a terrific kid. I think Sam is someone who has a lot going for him, but the biggest thing he's got going for him is his strength of character.
IT: Does he bring that to the football field in terms of being a leader?
Lee: He was a terrific leader with us, first and foremost by example. If there was something that needed to be done, Sam would be doing it before he would be telling anybody else what to do or how to do it. He's just that kind of person. He wants to be out front, working harder and better than everybody else and that strength of character is infectious with his teammates. And he's certainly a good communicator as well, but I think what I respect most about him is he's a doer and he is a leader by example and I think that, in due time, he'll bring that to the University of Texas.
IT: Early in the recruiting process he wasn't getting a lot of attention from most of the recruiting services. Texas seemed to hone in on him fairly early, before most people really knew about him. How did Texas find out about Sam?
Lee: When Sam's tape got discovered, all of a sudden that raised awareness of him and Sam got some scholarship offers. You know the recruiting game is a funny game. When schools hear other schools have offered somebody, then they've got to have him. I think once a few schools offered Sam and the ball started rolling, the whole thing picked up a tremendous amount of momentum. He was offered before anybody else knew about him by the local schools, you know, SMU, Tulsa, TCU, Rice. The University of Virginia, because I knew somebody there, sent somebody down and then that started raising other people's awareness of him. And then he went to some camps this summer, I think he went to Texas and to Southern Cal, and then when he got offers there. It was crazy. Everybody wanted him.
IT: How well did he handle the attention that recruits tend to get these days?
Lee: I am so proud of Sam in terms of the way he stayed grounded during a process that is almost surreal. I'll just share one little story. On the day he committed orally to the University of Texas, his cell phone was ringing of the hook and he turned it off and didn't check his messages or return his calls for a few days, saying that he just wanted to focus on being the best student and the best teammate he could during that period and then after the attention died down he returned his phone calls and sort of went about his business. I think Sam always maintained his priorities. Be a great student, be great teammate, support his high school team. He didn't miss practices or have his head in the next level. He had his heart in being a great student and athlete here at St. Mark's and I really appreciated that.
IT: So he's not one of those guys who'd want to go on TV and have all the hats there and put on a big show?
Lee: (laugher) No, Sam is the kind of person that takes the most satisfaction from doing his job really well, from being a great teammate. I'm sure he'll be that way at the University of Texas as well.
IT: In terms of on the field, what did he bring on the defensive side, since he'll probably be used at defensive end, that changed games for you?
Lee: For us, I think Sam was just dominant physically at our level. Obviously that's not going to happen at the University of Texas. I mean everybody in pads at Texas and on Texas' schedule is a tremendous athlete. I'm sure that there will be an adjustment period, as there is for any athlete coming from the high school level going on to play at a very high level. For us, Sam was a guy who was a tremendous pass rusher. He was somebody that you have to account for in your pass-protection scheme, usually with more than one man. You know, keep a tight end or a tackle in or a tackle and a back. He changed people's protections. And he was a very good run stopper. He was athletic enough that he could seal down the C gap really well and also play his contain responsibilities, using his foot-speed to string anything out in terms of perimeter. He was very difficult to hook. He was a solid player at both ends. And of course for us, he was also a critical component of our offense. We ran behind him. We ran to the strong side over our tight end. Often Sam threw the key block in making a run play work. We threw the ball to him a fair amount in-play action and in drop-back. He didn't get it quite as much as we'd like in the passing game simply because teams schemed to take away the tight end. So he created one-on-one match-ups for us on the outside. He never came off the field.
IT: He was dominant physically because of the competition he faced at this level, but what kind of qualities does he have that will allow him to gain an upper hand when he runs in people who are of equal or, perhaps, even better physical power?
Lee: Good question. I think first Sam is a hard working. He'll work tirelessly to perfect technique, which is of the utmost importance when you're facing someone that has all the physical attributes that you have. Secondly, Sam is really intelligent. He's able to adjust and recognize what's working, what's not working and adjust in games to be effective when he runs up against someone who's giving him a hard time. And then third, Sam is exceptionally coachable and whatever Coach (Mack) Brown and his staff need him to do, Sam will do it.
IT: What does he need to improve the most as he goes to the next level?
Lee: I think Sam is going to have to refine and tighten up his technique. In some cases a player of Sam's ability at our level can do things on physical ability, like we're talking about, that he's not going to be able to do when goes up against someone bigger and stronger than him. I think Sam will get to Texas and he will get coached up and he will continue to refine his technique. He'll be an extremely hard worker in the weight room and he'll continue to grow in his strength and his speed and athleticism. He'll be a tremendous asset to the program.
IT: Is there something interesting or unique about Sam that stands out to you?
Lee: His father is a pastor and he organizes, he's Nigerian in descent, a mission trip, a medical mission trip to Nigeria every summer and Sam goes on that trip, Sam and his brother (St. Mark's LB Emmanuel Acho). They do some really incredible things in the community out there. I really think Sam's pretty quiet about it, but his father tells me that's the first time many people have seen a doctor and they bring tons of physicians out there. 40 or 50 people, physicians in various specialties and I always thought that was really cool. I think in that respect he's got a really neat perspective for a kid here from St. Mark's, in terms of what he's seen. He has a real worldly perspective that makes him unique.
UT's Signing Day Bio: A three-time All-Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC) performer who was also a four-year member of the honor roll … versatile three-sport letterman who was a member of ESPN's top 150 national prospects … led St. Mark's to a 24-7 record during his final three seasons and an SPC Championship as a sophomore … was named captain by his teammates as a junior and senior … played DT as a freshman and DE and TE as a sophomore, junior and senior … earned All-SPC and all-district honors as a senior … named the team's Most Valuable Player … participated in the North vs. South Private School All-Star game … recorded 12 sacks as a senior … posted four sacks in a game against Casady … led the Lions to a 9-2 record and a berth in the SPC Championship game as a junior … tabbed All-SPC … also voted the Lion Award winner by his teammates for being the most respected player on the team … notched 10 sacks … helped St. Mark's to a 10-1 season and an SPC Championship as as sophomore … named All-SPC … also was a four-year letterman in track and field and a three-year letterman in basketball … was a two-year captain in track and field … holds the school record in the discus with a toss of 163-5 … ranks second in school history in the shot put with a throw of 55-1 … won the SPC Championship in the discus and shot put as a junior and the discus as a sophomore … named St. Mark's most valuable field athlete as a junior … competed in the Texas Relays as a sophomore and junior … finished 4th in the discus (B Division) as a junior … averaged 12 ppg and 15 rpg in basketball as a senior … earned All-SPC South Zone honors as a junior in that sport … was a member of the Spanish Honor Society, the Intercultural Club and the student government … was a class representative as a senior and class vice president as a sophomore … is close to being fluent in Spanish … spends time at the Jubilee Community Center helping teach adults English as a second language … spends time each summer taking mission trips to Nigeria where he performs mission work and helps provide medical care … volunteers time to special events for local homeless shelters … volunteered to help with landscaping around Richland College … mom, Christi, ran track at University College Hospital in Nigeria … full name is Samuel Onyedikachi Acho … middle name means 'one who is like God' … born 9/6/88 in Dallas.
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