Ever since I’ve known Emmanuel Acho he’s been a creator – a bold, fearless visionary who saw something in himself and dared to dream.
Emmanuel willed himself from Austin, Texas to the NFL to the ESPYs . . . to PROM . . . and now to even bigger and brighter things. But how he got to where he is now is a story worth telling.
Many people in my circle of friends see Emmanuel Acho as a little brother. I’ll never forget those chants ringing through our high school basketball court as we played our rival. “LITTLE BROTHER!” they screamed every time he touched the ball. Clever, yes, but hearing that chant hurt me because I always knew Emmanuel was so much more.
One story that shaped Emmanuel happened during his senior year of high school. I had left for college and he took over as commander-in-chief of our high school football team. And just like everything else he’s done, he turned the team around. He started by bringing them brand new jerseys, and finished by bringing them an undefeated season and a state title.
And as if that weren’t enough, he went on during track season to set the all-time school record for discus, taking the second all-time ranking in our division. He still argues that he’s the best thrower in school history (though, I should add, I hold the record in shot-put). By the end of that record-setting school year, he expected, as we all did, for him to win Athlete of the Year like I had during the year prior. I even came back to celebrate with him. But for some strange reason, though by every statistical measure he deserved it, he didn’t win it. I’ll never forget hearing the other kid’s name called and the devastation that ensued. But what I quickly learned about Emmanuel is that instead of getting bitter, he gets better.
He went on to play four years as a star linebacker for the University of Texas, then four more years in the NFL. And though his career may not be over just yet, I do want to take this moment to say how proud I am.
In fact, to say I’m proud would be an understatement. You see, for the last 28 years I’ve been doing my best to be my brother’s keeper, trying to set an example for him to follow. But what I’ve been missing all along is that Emmanuel is the tone-setter, the standard-setter, the example in and of himself.
Emmanuel, YOU are the reason I played football. I was a shy, timid, and scared 12-year-old boy. But I watched you – my “little brother” – demonstrate boldness. You did what you always do. You paved the way for those behind you. From the first time you put on the helmet all those years ago, I was watching. First on the sideline, then on a field next to you, then with you. Now I’m watching as you make as beautiful of a transition as I’ve ever seen into your post-football career – social advocate, sports psych expert, venture capitalist, TV personality.
I’m trying to think of the best way to describe you, but I think Ben Lyons of The Players’ Tribune said it best: “Ladies and gentlemen, this man is going to run the world someday . . . soon!”
Love you, E. Keep on creating.