By Mark Gregory
If someone in Plainfield didn’t know better they would think the Chicago Bears had a bye week this week.
That is because just a day before the Bears were leaving for New Orleans in preparation of an Oct. 29 tilt with the Saints, veteran outside linebacker Sam Acho took time to come to Plainfield Central and speak with athletes as part of a program sponsored by Powerade.
He didn’t just make an appearance. Acho addressed student-athletes about sports and life and then took time to sign autographs, take photos and answer an array of questions.
“The questions I was asked today were – when is (rookie quarterback) Mitch (Trubisky) going to throw more, what do I eat every day to put on weight – the answer is PB&J and Chipotle – and a little about how I started getting recruited,” he said. “The students ask unbelievable questions and you can tell that they are eager to learn and eager to make a change.”
The ‘Power Your School’ campaign awarded 500 schools across the country a $2,000 each for its athletic programs – totaling $1 million donated by the sports drink company this year.
Plainfield Central, chosen because of District 202’s partnership with the brand as well as the success of its teams, was the lone winner in the Chicagoland area.
“I am actively involved and one thing I love to do is talk to students and encourage them. As this was getting set up, I heard about the opportunity and I jumped aboard,” Acho said about coming to Plainfield to speak. “I was telling my wife it is kind of far away, but she said is awesome and said if I had a chance to do it, then go for it. I love being able to encourage people. It is a gift of mine and I just love being able to do it.”
Acho told the football players in the audience that their story – one of four straight winless seasons and an 0-39 record and then falling just one win shy of a playoff berth this season – resonated with him.
He related stories of his own high school days, when after earning a scholarship to the University of Texas, how one of his team captains was in disbelief – believing Acho’s ability wasn’t deserving of the scholarship.
“Just because people are on your side, does not mean they are in your corner,” he told the students.
Even in his professional career, Acho understands rough seasons.
In his seven years in the league, he has only played on a wining team twice and made the playoffs once – in 2014 with the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals – only to lose in the wild card game.
“I can relate to being 0-39,” he said. “There was a time that we were 10-26 in my time in Chicago. You have to block out the noise. It is like if you have a ship – it is the water that gets in the ship that sinks it. It is not what is inside, but it is something that is outside. So, that is a reminder, don’t let outside noise sink your ship. The thing people might understand now is – don’t get lost in the sauce.
“Sometimes your losses are your biggest lessons and it makes the wins that much sweeter.”
He told the student-athletes not to let what they hear in the hallways or on social media affect what they do.
“You try and block it out,” he said. “I even watch ESPN sometimes or the NFL Network and I am waiting for the Bears highlights and they don’t show them – whether we win or lose – and even if we win, they are showing the highlights of the bad plays. I am tired of hearing about the bad news Bears, we are the good news Bears and we need to start delivering some good news.”
Acho said that good news has come as of late with the Bears winning two in a row heading into New Orleans – but that did not surprise him.
“The thing people haven’t seen is that we have been playing well for three years,” Acho said of the Bears’ defense. “If you turn the film on, you will see that ever since Vic (Fangio) got here as defensive coordinator, we have had three good years of film. We haven’t had the turnovers people were looking for, now we are starting to reap the benefits of the hard work we have put in. I am not surprised that we are playing, this is what we expect of ourselves.”