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January 16, 2013

Acho talks Colt, J-Tuck, Dawson, Sam, Manny and more

Had a chance to catch up with former Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho on the Chip Brown Show (ChipBrownShow.com) and wanted to share the highlights with everyone.

Acho, who led the Longhorns in tackles in 2011, talks about his year with the Cleveland Browns; hanging out with Colt McCoy; the advice he gave to Justin Tucker, who sings opera in the shower; being a teammate of new Pro Bowl kicker Phil Dawson; brother Sam Acho; and what Emmanuel really thinks of Manny Diaz.

Here we go …

You don't fully appreciate what the linebacker position is supposed to do in Manny Diaz's scheme until you compare the numbers of Emmanuel Acho at linebacker in 2011 to what the LBs did in 2012.

****Acho had 131 tackles in 2011 with 19 tackles for loss. Linebacker Steve Edmond finished second in tackles for Texas in 2012 with 103 but registered just 6 TFLs.)


Q: Can I say that Texas missed you at linebacker in 2012? I think everyone was shocked by the drop-off from last year's defense to this year's, which finished as the worst statistical defense in school history, giving up 404.2 yards per game.

ACHO:
"I think everyone underestimated what they were losing. Not just me and Keenan (Robinson) but also Kheeston Randall and Blake Gideon. It was definitely disappointing. But this is the year they need to make huge strides."


Q: The linebackers have a huge role in Manny Diaz's scheme. Talk about that.

ACHO:
"The linebackers do have a huge role In Diaz's scheme. He always says, 'The D-line should lead the team in sacks and tackles for loss. The linebackers should lead the team in tackles, and the secondary should lead the team in interceptions.'

"If those things don't follow suit, then you have an issue. And those things did not follow suit this season. The linebackers have the ability to roam, but they have to have the knowledge of where to roam and how to do it appropriately.

"Keenan (Robinson) and I had more experience last year. This year, when they lost Jordan Hicks, they lost starts. They lost two years of experience, and they lost a high IQ in the room. So they ended up with a much younger group (of linebackers) who learned and improved during the course of the season."


Q: Many are questioning if Manny Diaz is the right guy to continue to lead the Texas defense after last season.

ACHO:
"That was the most frustrating thing was seeing people question the guy who helped me get drafted in the NFL and a guy who helped us become the No. 11 defense in the nation and No. 1 in the Big 12.

"You have to look beyond Manny Diaz. He's clearly not the problem if he could lead the defense to the year it had in 2011. That's frustrating. I think he's an incredible coach, and I think he does a good job of teaching his players.

"When they lost Jordan Hicks and lost Jackson Jeffcoat, things changed and some players didn't have the experience that's typically expected and required at the University of Texas."


Q: After being drafted in the sixth round by the Browns, you tore knee ligaments during the Browns' second pre-season game against Green Bay and were placed on injured reserve. Talk about now having to prove yourself to a new coaching staff with Pat Shurmur getting fired and Rob Chudzinski getting hired.

ACHO:
"With a brand new coaching staff, everybody's future is uncertain, but I have the opportunity to prove why I was drafted."


Q: Your older brother, Sam, is in a similar situation with the Arizona Cardinals, who fired their coach - Ken Whisenhunt. Sam, of course, had the 7 sacks as a rookie and became a starter, registering 4 sacks this season. How is he doing?

ACHO:
"It's funny because the Cleveland Browns interviewed Ken Wisenhunt to be the head coach. So that could have been interesting. But I think the Cardinals are going to retain most of their defensive staff, so it might be as much turnover for Sam.

"He had the breakout rookie year, and he's starting to become a leader on one of the best defenses in the country. So personally he's doing well."


Q: What was it like being reunited with Colt McCoy in Cleveland? And how is he holding up after being blind-sided by the draft pick last year of quarterback Brandon Weeden when the Browns finally brought in a playmaker at RB in Trent Richardson?

ACHO:
"Colt and his wife took me in. I would go over to their house once a week and just hang out. That was a blessing.

"Colt is a pro's pro. He's the first one in the building and one of the last to leave. When I was doing rehab early in the season, I had to be there at 6 am, and Colt would somehow beat me or be right there with me with no requirements.

"He's still working, just grinding. Clearly, he's probably a little frustrated with his situation as anyone would be. But he's going to work to make the best out of it. I'm looking forward to see what the future holds for him."


Q: You are active on Twitter (@thEMANacho), and I saw you tweet about your Texas teammate Justin Tucker after his game-winning field goal for the Ravens against Denver. You told reporters last year that J-Tuck is a different dude and even sings opera in the shower.

ACHO:
"Justin, I will still confirm and attest to the fact, he's a very different guy. Always an incredible player and kicker. Everyone saw what he could do in the last game of the Texas A&M rivalry.

"I had a chance to talk to him after he won the job in Baltimore. I just told him it's his from here. His career is dictated by himself and himself only.

"When you have a guy like Phil Dawson in our locker room who has been an NFL kicker since I was 5 years old, that's something to learn from. So I just told Justin Tucker, 'You're driving the car, so it's up to you how long you want to drive it.'


Q: Why do you think Tucker is seemingly immune to pressure?

ACHO:
"I just don't think he cares what people think. That's a really good thing when you're a kicker.

"He doesn't think he's going to miss ever. It helps that he has confidence. But he doesn't care what people think about himself or his kicks.

"So when he goes up to kick, he's not afraid or worried about missing. I don't think it ever crosses his mind that he could miss. That really showed this year."


Q: Former Longhorn Phil Dawson made 29 of 31 field goals this season and made his first Pro Bowl in 14 seasons in the NFL. Talk about what makes Dawson special.

ACHO:
"He's just a perfectionist. And congrats to him on making his first Pro Bowl.

"Since I was rehabbing all season, I would be in our team bubble when the special teams guys would come in to kick. And he would sometimes aim to hit the right field goal post, just to practice his accuracy. It just wowed and amazed me.

"Phil's a perfectionist. He knows it's all about angles. After doing it for so long, he's not even worried about pressure. He just goes out there and kicks. He knows what web site to look at for accurate weather and wind readings ahead of time. He's just a total pro."


Q: You're back on campus for grad school this semester. What are you studying?

ACHO:
"The new collective bargaining agreement pays for players to go to graduate school. So I'm back this semester working on my masters in kinesiology with a specialty in sports psychology.

"It's free money. It's something to capitalize on, so why not take up that opportunity and go back and further my education at a place like the University of Texas."


Q: You strike me as a guy who is probably really sensible when it comes to money.

ACHO:
"The biggest thing is save it. The bank is the safest place right now, even though there's not much return. So in the NFL, when the majority of your money is made early, you just save it and wait for an investment to present itself.

"My rookie year, I tried to live off my signing bonus ($78,680). I hardly ever saw my game checks (Acho made the rookie minimum of $390,000 this season). I would just log online and make sure my financial adviser was taking care of everything. But I'm still living off my signing bonus, so that whatever money I made this year went into savings."


Q: Smart man. You have any classes today (Wednesday)?

ACHO:
"No. My classes are on Tuesday and Thursday. I'm about to go work out with some of the other NFL guys who are back in Austin."


Q: No classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday? Smart man again, leaving those Mondays and Fridays open for long weekends.

ACHO:
"You know it. It's not my first time signing up for college classes."



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