Veteran NFL Linebacker’s Inspiration to Change the World
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BE THE LIGHT
Anyone who meets Sam Acho feels seen and heard. Simply put, Sam loves people. He’s a former nine-year NFL veteran whose passion for helping others is contagious. After nine seasons of playing football, Sam was ready to focus on something closer to his heart. He decided to use his platform to help people and communities in need.
In his latest book, "Change Starts with You," Sam shares why he wrote the book, “I want you to know about the joy of heaven on earth. The joy of seeking justice and journeying toward a better tomorrow. But the workers are few, and change starts with you. I want to empower, encourage, and equip you with a simple but controversial truth: you can make a difference; you can be a changemaker.”
Sam says that people often wonder where to start. He says it starts on the inside by standing up for what you believe and not being afraid to act. “You are someone's answered prayer. Don’t tell someone you are praying for them when you are the answer to their prayers. Just go,” he says.
BE THE CHANGE
During the civil unrest after the death of George Floyd and many others, people in Chicago began to protest and riot. They wanted to be heard. Sam was listening and decided to do something. He started by meeting with a diverse group which included 10 pro-athletes, 10 police officers, and 30 kids from By the Hand Club for Kids, founded by Donnita Travis. Everyone took turns speaking but more importantly, they listened. Afterward, they boarded a bus to tour the West side of Chicago. The disillusionment of what they saw showed on the athlete's faces. Teenage Azariah noticed. “You all see this as a field trip,” she said. “But some of us choose to live here. We call this place home. I hope you’ll remember that when you go back to your homes.” They did.
During the bus ride, they also noticed the lack of access to food. Sam explains, “Have you ever heard of a food desert? It’s a region where grocery stores are scarce and liquor stores are a dime a dozen.” Working together, they tore down an old liquor store and created a food market called Austin Harvest which is filled with healthy foods, fruits, vegetables, and fresh flowers. It's run by a group of teenagers, including Azariah, who helped lead the way. Sam refers to the entire process and experience as a Nehemiah moment.
ROAD TO NFL
Sam’s parents are from Nigeria but he was born in Texas. His father is a pastor. His parents wanted him and his brother, Emmanuel, to play sports when they were younger to help get their energy out. They both excelled in football and people took notice in high school.
Sam’s first offer to play college football was with USC—the best school in football at the time. Their interest came at a time when Sam was preparing to leave for Nigeria to do missions work with his family. The call came before he boarded the flight but Sam felt a check in his spirit. He explains, “Something wasn't sitting well with me. What I didn't know yet was that, even as a teenager, the spirit of God was already guiding me." Sam didn't commit at that point. While in Nigeria God showed him that the people there didn't care about those kinds of things. They focused on God. “Those kids in that Nigerian village reminded me of who I was, but not as a football player. They reminded me that there is more to life than football… And that is this: the opportunity, the invitation, the open door to get to know Jesus intimately. Once you know Him, everything will change. I guarantee it, “ Sam explains.
When he got home from Nigeria, he had over 50 missed calls, including numerous offers. Sam chose to play for Texas. He would then go on to play for the Arizona Cardinals, the Chicago Bears, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is now a free agent and sports analyst.
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