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September 10, 2009"D-Town, stay down," Sam Acho said to fellow Dallas native Sergio Kindle, when Acho spotted Kindle for the lunch-time media gathering Texas has with coaches and players each Monday.
Kindle smiled before talking about the good time he had "kickin' it" with Acho on Acho's 21st birthday the night before.
Ask Acho about Kindle, and Acho says, "He's just fun-loving Serg."
Ask Kindle about Acho and Kindle shakes his head, "He's a genius, I know that. You're not in the business school as an undergraduate, playing football and doing all he's doing without being a genius."
Ask Will Muschamp about the differences between Kindle and Acho and he starts laughing. "Night and day," Muschamp said.
SAME BUT DIFFERENT
The similarities, however, are evident to college football fans. They're both impact playmakers.
Kindle is coming off a 10-sack season and posted two QB pressures and an overlooked pass breakup in the end zone in the first quarter with a well-timed swipe of the ball against ULM receiver Keavon Milton in coverage Saturday.
Acho opened the season with two fumble recoveries, a quarterback pressure and two pass breakups.
Acho's dad, Sonni, was born in Nigeria and moved to the U.S. where he studied to become a medical doctor. This summer Sonni took Sam over to Africa for medical mission work with the Living Hope Ministries.
Sonni and Christi Acho are so devoted to education they put their two sons, Sam and Emmanuel Acho, in St. Mark's in Dallas when they were in second and first grade respectively.
ACHO DISCOVERS TEXAS FAMILY
Sam played all the sports kids play but his passion and athletic talent kept bringing him back to football. And he got his first recruiting letter from TCU as a sophomore. Then Oklahoma State came calling. Then USC.
"I thought it would be cool to go to school in California," Sam Acho said before starting to sing the theme song from the television show "The O.C."
But Sam Acho took a trip to Texas and met Brian Orakpo, whose parents were also born in Nigeria. Sonni and Christi Acho were immediately connected to Orakpo's parents and the family of Frank Okam, who is also of Nigerian descent. Since then, Acho's family helped recruit Alex Okafor, another defensive end whose family is from Nigeria.
Acho said those family ties were too much to ignore. To illustrate how tight the UT football family is, Acho started talking about his birthday last Sunday.
"I got text messages from all the assistant coaches on the team, and Coach Brown gave me a hand-written birthday card," Acho said. "I don't think you get that everywhere."
OVERACHIEVERS ON DEFENSE
Sam's younger brother, Emmanuel, followed him to Texas. Now both are huge pieces of a Texas defense trying to help lead the Longhorns to a title.
"The guy plays with a high motor," Muschamp said of Sam Acho. "He goes out to practice every day and works hard. Football is extremely important to him. And he's just a great example of a guy who God has blessed with a lot of ability.
"But he's enhanced that ability by working hard off the field in the weight room and the workouts and the explosive power stuff, the change of direction. He studies the game. He's already been in to watch film on the opponent. He's a great example of the intangible things. If a guy will apply himself he can really benefit as a football player."
Acho said he sees himself as an "overachiever" because Muschamp always says he wants a defense full of overachievers. When he walked on the field last Saturday, it sunk in his time had arrived.
TIME TO GO MAKE PLAYS
"I just realized, 'I need to go make some plays,'" Acho said. " I couldn't look out there and say, 'OK, Rak is making plays' or 'Henry is making plays.' I had to go out there and make some plays. Coach Muschamp always says, 'Great players don't have bad days.' So I try to keep my bad days to a minimum."
Muschamp loves to cross-train players and "load them up with information." Muschamp will throw everything at a player and see how much soaks in. This season, Muschamp moved Sam Acho to defensive tackle when the defense moves to a three-man front.
"He's athletic," Muschamp said. "He's a fast-twitch body guy who really should be a mismatch for most guards. In college, most of your best protectors are usually at tackle. Generally, we feel like we can get a good one-on-one inside with a guy like Sam."
KINDLE FREEING UP ACHO
Acho said he's already enjoying mostly one-on-one blocking thanks to Kindle. Last week, the ULM defense turned its protection toward Kindle.
"Coach Muschamp told me it would happen, so we worked hard on it in camp," Kindle said. "Going up against our big guys in camp, I'm ready for any double-team. Plus, it opens doors for other guys like Sam."
Kindle also laughed at questions about the defense because Texas gave up 20 points against ULM.
"With the game plan, you don't want to bring your whole package in if you don't need it," Kindle said. "We weren't happy with the 20 we gave up. If we give up 20 this week, it will be a real problem."
Acho said Kindle is one of the most respected players on the team.
"Even if you just watch Sergio on tape, his motor never stops running," Acho said. "We watch film and see him track down plays he has no business getting to. His motor never stops running. He deserves all the concentration he gets. It's easy to be lazy when you're that gifted athletically, but he's one of the hardest workers on the team."
BROTHERS IN UT FOOTBALL FAMILY
Kindle, a father of a young son, has a tattoo on his right forearm calling himself a "Bad Luck Boy" because he couldn't get on the field as a starter his first two years at Texas. He is surprisingly soft-spoken. Acho is a non-stop talker.
This summer, Kindle made headlines for running his car into an apartment. Acho spent part of his summer doing mission work in Africa. By his own admission, Kindle said school has been a challenge for him (although he's on target to graduate in December). For Acho, school comes easily.
"I'm majoring in marketing," Acho said. "I'd like to do some type of consulting. I have different interests. I'm more of a big picture guy. I'm taking my fair share of math and science, but that's not really my passion. I'm more into people and big picture and getting plans set."
Acho's first play as a freshman in 2007 was a quarterback sack. Kindle's first play in 2007 didn't come until Game 4 because he was suspended the first three games for a DWI arrest.
No matter the differences between Acho and Kindle, they are bonded by respect on the Longhorns' defense. When they say, "D-Town, stay down," to each other, they celebrate their shared hometown of Dallas.
They are the DEs from Big D. The bookend defensive ends on a team trying to reach goals not seen since 2005. Those similarities have transcended their differences and made them as close as brothers in the Texas family.