AUSTIN, Texas — A former Texas and NFL linebacker turned No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, Emmy-winning host and TV analyst is coming back to the Forty Acres. Emmanuel Acho will deliver the keynote address at The University of Texas at Austin’s 139th Spring Commencement on May 21.
After his football career at UT Austin, Acho played for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles before becoming a TV analyst in 2016, now with Fox Sports. Acho has gained wide recognition for his advocacy work in recent years. His online video series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” has been viewed more than 90 million times since its launch in June 2020 and earned him an Emmy Award in September 2021.
“Emmanuel Acho embodies the best of our university,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. “He is a Longhorn who exemplifies impact through excellence, bravery, perseverance and resilience. The challenges and opportunities our graduates will face call for his valuable perspectives on the need for conversations with each other about difficult or uncomfortable issues, and how one can live in a world of possibility rather than a world of limits.”
A Dallas native and the son of Nigerian immigrants, Acho received a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s in sports psychology from UT Austin. He will address a crowd that is expected to exceed 50,000 attendees, including about 12,000 graduates and their families during the 8 p.m. ceremony at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The ceremony will celebrate students who graduated in August 2021, December 2021, and those who will graduate in May 2022.
“The opportunity to go back to DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium and speak to the graduates this spring is extremely gratifying, especially because it’s the 10-year anniversary of my graduation,” Acho said. “My time at The University of Texas, the people I met and the lessons learned shaped me into who I am today. My education there exposed me to new perspectives and gave me the confidence to confront challenges without fear and to initiate tough but necessary conversations and change.”
“Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” has brought in an array of celebrity guests (including Matthew McConaughey, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and Chip and Joanna Gaines) to discuss racial ignorance and racially insensitive societal issues. The series garnered widespread media attention and led to a publishing partnership with Oprah Winfrey for a three-book deal, beginning with “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” which made the New York Times Bestseller list upon its release in November 2020. Acho’s second book, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy,” a children’s book aimed at opening a dialogue on systemic racism, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list in May 2021. His third book, “Illogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits” will be released March 22.
Today, Acho co-hosts the Fox Sports talk show “Speak for Yourself,” which weaves together discussions on topics related to sports and politics. In 2021, he was recognized for his broadcasting work with a Sports Emmy for Best Emerging Talent. He is also a past Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and maintains an active role in his family’s nonprofit Living Hope Christian Ministries, which provides medical care to rural communities in Nigeria.
The spring university-wide commencement ceremony, headlined by Acho’s address, takes place after all the school and college-specific convocations and is the culmination of commencement weekend. The ceremony will also include the conferring of degrees by the president, the traditional lighting of the Tower in orange to honor graduates, and a fireworks display.