University of Texas at Austin senior defensive end Sam Acho has been named winner of the 21st National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame (NFF) William V. Campbell Trophy, as college football’s top student-athlete in combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. He was announced as the winner at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday (Dec. 7) in New York City.
Acho becomes the second Longhorn in the last four years to earn the honor, following center Dallas Griffin in 2007 when it was named the Draddy Trophy. He was also the third finalist in the last four years, including quarterback Colt McCoy in 2009.
“I’m just honored to be a part of this,” Acho said. “Looking back, we had a winner of this award four years ago, Dallas Griffin. He won when I was a freshman, and he really inspired me to strive for excellence and to do my best on the field and in the classroom. We have the same major, and I really looked to him as a mentor. I wouldn’t be here today without him, without my family and the family I’ve developed at The University of Texas at Austin.
“This means so much because of what it represents, the people you meet and the family you become a part of. The Campbell Trophy stands for excellence both on and off the field. I feel that through coach Mack Brown and the entire staff at Texas, and also through the McCombs School of Business, I’ve really been able to excel both on and off the field.”
Finalists earn the honor of being named a NFF Scholar-Athlete and receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, while the winner earns a $25,000 scholarship. Overall, Acho is the 11th Longhorn to be named a NFF Scholar-Athlete.
“Sam defines champion in every way, on the field and off the field, which is why he is so deserving of the Campbell Trophy,” head coach Mack Brown said. “He works as hard as anybody I’ve ever been around. He’s got great character and values from his family. He gives back to the community, but at the same time, football’s very important to him, and he’s another in the line of great defensive ends we’ve had who will go on to the NFL. This is a very, very special young man and not many people can live up to all that Sam Acho stands for.”
This season, Acho has already been named the winner of the Wuerffel Award and ARA Sportsmanship Award, an Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member, an ESPN Academic All-America First Team member and a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy and Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. He was also a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award and Lombardi Award. An All-Big 12 First-Team selection, Acho also earned a spot on the prestigious 2010 Preseason Playboy All-America team and was on the watch lists for the Nagurski Trophy, Hendricks Award and Outland Trophy.
An honors business major in the prestigious McCombs School of Business, Acho is the university’s seventh two-time academic all-American and maintains a 3.55 grade-point average. He is a two-year member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council and was the choice as the university’s representative at the 2009 NCAA Leadership Conference in which one student-athlete from each NCAA school attends. He is the student-athlete representative of the Big 12 on the NCAA Football Issues Committee and one of UT’s representatives at the Big 12’s Conference on Black Student Government. In addition, he has attended the Minority Mentorship Symposium in Austin, which features high-profile leaders, executives and stars from the business, entertainment and music industries speaking on topics that focus on success.
Named one of The Sporting News’ “20 Smartest Athletes,” Acho has earned CoSIDA Academic All-District 6 honors in each of the last three years and is a three-time first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection and six-time UT Athletics Director’s Honor Roll member. The past two years, he has been honored with the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholarship Award, which is a national award that recognizes minority student-athletes who are committed to both education and athletics. Last year, he completed an internship at Target where he had a marketing idea advance to the level of the CEO.
In April 2010, Acho was inducted into the Friar Society, which is the oldest and most prestigious honor society at The University of Texas at Austin and recognizes students who have made significant contributions to the university.
Acho saw action in 50 career games (26 starts) and tallied 148 tackles, 23.5 sacks (No. 10 on UT’s career list), 37 tackles for loss (TFL), 43 pressures, eight point balls dead (PBD), eight forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries (tied for No. 2 on UT’s career list).
In 2010, he recorded 59 tackles, 17 TFL, nine sacks, 17 pressures, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. His five fumble recoveries lead the nation this season and tied the UT single-season record. His five forced fumbles are tied for second nationally and tied for seventh on the UT single-season list.
A 2009 semifinalist for the Lott Trophy, Acho notched 63 tackles, 10 sacks, 14 TFL, 15 pressures, three PBD, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries that season. The four fumble recoveries were tied for the most nationally and tied for third on UT’s single-season list.
Acho and his family have made several medical mission trips to his parents’ native country of Nigeria, including this past summer. He helped organize a fundraiser in Dallas prior to the 2009 and 2010 trips. Then he, his brother Emmanuel and several teammates traveled to assist his father and approximately 40 doctors by providing medical treatment to Nigerians who may only have access to a doctor once a year. The family hopes to build a permanent clinic in the area soon.
Among his individual community efforts, he has mentored third and fourth graders at O’Henry Middle School, spoken at Austin area high schools, taken the lead in organizing team donations to the university’s Orange Santa program, participated in the Texas Round-Up teaching children the benefits of physical activity and health, volunteered at The Children’s Courtyard where he interacted with children and encouraged them to stay in school and spent time at the Jubilee Community Center helping teach adults English as a second language. In July, he helped build a home in Dallas through Habitat for Humanity.
He is also highly involved in the team’s community service program and is a regular visitor to the Dell Children’s Medical Center, and he has participated in visits by Wonders and Worries (children with life-threatening illnesses), the Rise School and the Arc of the Capital Area (children in early education with disabilities).
Started in 1959, the NFF scholar-athlete program became the first initiative in history to award a postgraduate scholarship based on a player’s combined academic and athletic accomplishments. The program has awarded $9.5 million to 740 top athletes since its inception. The centerpiece to the NFF’s scholar-athlete program is the Campbell Trophy. First awarded in 1990, the award was renamed last fall in honor of Bill Campbell, the chairman of Intuit, former player and head coach at Columbia University and the 2004 recipient of the NFF’s Gold Medal.