Interview: Former NFL Linebacker Sam Acho Author of 'Let the World See You'

by Sean Patrick 14 days ago in football

Former Chicago Bear Linebacker Sam Acho talks about How to Be Real in a World of Fakes.

Interview: Former NFL Linebacker Sam Acho Author of 'Let the World See You'

Former NFL Linebacker Sam Acho played for the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his more than 8 seasons in the NFL. In his time in the NFL Sam struggled with his emotions and with trying to hide his insecurities and anxiety and it caused strife in the locker room and in his personal life. It wasn’t until a friend caused Sam to begin to open up and reveal himself that Sam’s life began to get better and his outlook on the world began to change in an incredibly positive way.

Now, after his career in the NFL, Sam is sharing the guidance and advice that led him to the positive and open person that he is today. In his new book Let the World See You: How to Be Real in a World Full of Fakes, Sam Acho shares stories that guided him to overcome his fears and share the real Sam Acho with the world. By embracing the things that scared him, the anxieties that frustrated him, and being vulnerable with the world around him, Sam has found a path to a better and more peaceful life. You can listen to the interview as a podcast here or read along below.

SP- This is an incredibly brave book with a brave concept, calling on people to be open and honest and vulnerable with the world around them. It’s something that we are all capable of but not something we all do.

Sam Acho- Absolutely! Yeah, it’s not easy to be real. We live in a culture and a society where everyone lauds frauds everyone loves the fake, they love seeing in the perfect picture, put-together person on Instagram or Twitter or social media but in all reality, no one’s perfect and I learned that the hard way. I was an NFL Linebacker and always got good grades and a smart guy and a Campbell Trophy Winner and Wuerffel Trophy Winner and all the things, and it got to the point where I said this person that I am portraying isn’t really me. I wouldn’t get angry in front of my teammates, I would act like I had all of the answers, and finally I was sitting down with a friend, I had just signed a big contract with the NFL, I was sitting down with a friend and on the outside, things looked good but on the inside I was struggling, and I told him, it was a week before training camp and I said, ‘Dude, I just need the season to start and I’ll be okay.’ My marriage was struggling, my relationship with my kids was struggling, nothing was good on the inside, but on the outside, it looked great. And I said, I just need to get back to Football and I will be fine and he looked at me and he said Sam, if that’s how you are right now, I’m afraid of what happens when you retire and this football thing is taken away from you. And so, as I am talking to him I start crying, like the real me comes out and starts crying, and my friend looks at me and says ‘Sam, it’s nice to see you.’ And so, this book really is about what it’s like to be seen and be known and to be loved. It’s not a Football book by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a book about life, it’s a book about love, it’s about relationships and vulnerability and authenticity.

SP- And confronting insecurity about who you are and that is such a unique perspective to take as a speaker as a motivational speaker, when you are talking to people and trying to inspire them to overcome those insecurities to reveal themselves, it’s much more challenging than people think…

Sam Acho- Yeah, it’s not easy by any means. I remember, in 2018, during the season I tore my pec, my pectoral muscle in my chest, I was out for the season, I had a surgery, I was in a sling, and I understand that people, it’s a pec injury, maybe you can come back from it, maybe you can’t, people wanna rush back the healing process but similar to our emotional scars, physical injuries takes time to heal. And so, my physical arm was in a sling and little by little I would try to get healthy and do rehab and my body needed to heal, similarly you heal emotionally from our emotional scars, scars from our youth, whether it’s abuse, or getting picked on or having fear or shame or anxiety, you can’t just all of a sudden come out and say ‘hey everybody look at me, this is me, it takes time to heal. But, I will say this Sean, you have to take those steps, you can’t just sit down. For me, using a physical injury as an example, I can’t just sit down and not do rehab and try to get stronger. The same goes with emotional injuries. Emotionally, to let the world see us, it takes these little baby steps, little things done well make big things happen. And so, similarly with showing the world who we are, because a lot of us know who we really are, but it takes these true steps to truly show yourself to the world.

SP- One of the first chapters in the book, Let the World See You is about hiding. Hiding is about seeking a place of comfort but it’s also about running away from things that make you uncomfortable, hiding keeps that discomfort at bay but it doesn’t make it go away…

Sam Acho- Absolutely, in the first chapter of the book I talk about being 13 years old and I was with a church group, we were meeting every week, it was a pretty big church, my dad was a pastor there, so he was super-well known and I was an awkward middle schooler trying to figure it out and I was with the High Schoolers and I remember getting made fun of for the clothes I was wearing and I didn’t know how to deal with that. Not only were they making fun of me but then they said ‘Oh, you don’t know, his dad is pastor at this church, that’s Dr Acho’s son, and immediately I felt a sense of shame and so what I decided to do, as you alluded to, I decided to go to the bathroom stall and hide. And yes, you mentioned it, it felt comfortable, they’re not talking about me, I feel safe, but that temporary hiding place became a permanent one. Every week I would go and I would just hide and fast forward, obviously I was 13 now I am 31, I’m not hiding in bathroom stalls anymore but what I would do, even in NFL locker rooms, I would hide within myself, I wouldn’t show people the real me. I wouldn’t show them if ever I got angry, I would try to keep myself from getting angry, if ever I was frustrated or confused I would try to act like I had it all together. And so, you talk about these ideas of hiding places being comfortable but, you mentioned it, we have to understand what is the cause or the source of our hiding? What’s the reason for our shame or our discomfort? And sooner or later you have to confront those things and walk into freedom.

SP- Exactly, what is it that makes you anxious and why? And once you overcome that the feeling of not having that anxiety, of not having that insecurity, is probably the greatest feeling in the world…

Sam Acho- Oh, there’s nothing better, I mean, there’s a freedom that you experience when you’re you. When you’re you, God gets the glory. When you’re you the people around you benefit. When you’re you the world around you thrives. When you’re you. When you’re you, all of these things happen. Being you isn’t just for you right, obviously it will help you, but it will allow other people to be free as well. They’ll see that and they’ll go ‘Wow! I didn’t know I was allowed to be vulnerable or be transparent or to be authentic. You actually hold the key to other people’s freedom.

SP- Allowing yourself to experience real emotions in front of other people, that level of vulnerability and connection, at once, you want to feel safe but, at the same time there is a freedom to being out in the world fully revealed…

Sam Acho- Absolutely, and that’s what I experienced. We’re afraid if people see us, they won’t love us. We’re afraid that if people know the real us, look at me, 6 ft 3, 250 pounds, NFL Linebacker but I’m also super-emotional right, and I was afraid if my teammates see that I am insensitive to some of the things they say or whatever, they’re not going to love me or accept me but it wasn’t until I actually started crying, in front of my teammates, crying in front of my coaches, being vulnerable and being real in front of them, not only did I benefit, we had our best season, and people were like ‘oh wow, that’s allowed,’ 12 and 4 and in the playoffs and that’s on a football field, and I understand, not everyone played football but even in your life or your marriage your relationship with your kids, that worked. Being you, and maybe that’s not crying maybe you was someone who really cares, writing notes, maybe it’s someone who is a great leader, maybe it’s someone who is a great listener, you don’t have to conform to who everyone else thinks you are. You get a chance to be you.

SP- I’ll admit it, I cried a couple of times reading this book, mostly just tears of recognition of feeling that the person who wrote this, you obviously, Sam, felt something that I had felt so many times and not been able to verbalize…

Sam Acho- No, that means so much Sean, thank you. Thank you number 1 for acknowledging that and secondly, so many tears were shed for me while writing this book, if I am being totally honest, this book was an… physically writing it wasn’t hard. But, emotionally, going to these places, where I felt the fear and the insecurity and the shame, but also breaking through from it, that was the hard part. And, even as we’re talking now, I’m feeling some of those same feelings. The fact that you’re acknowledging what alot of us go through. Everybody goes through it but nobody wants to talk about it, so man, thank you.

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Sean Patrick
Sean Patrick
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Sean Patrick

I have been a film critic for nearly 20 years and worked professionally, as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association for the past 9 years. My favorite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski because it always feels new.

See all posts by Sean Patrick