Rookie Sam Acho is learning how to play linebacker.
Every time linebacker Sam Acho runs onto the field in his Cardinals jersey, he can't describe the feeling.
"I caught myself laughing on the field the other day because it is such a blessing," he said.
Acho was selected by Arizona 103rd overall this year in the fourth round of the draft. Hoping to get picked during the second or third round, he had to wait a day to hear his name called.
"The heart was pumping," he said, "but it was great because I came out with the perfect team, and have a chance to help win a lot of games this year."
When he arrived in Arizona, veteran safety Adrian Wilson became his mentor. Like any other rookie, he was given the traditional treatment.
"Everybody went through it," he said after practice. "I'm about to go fetch Wilson's pads."
During his years as defensive end with the Texas Longhorns, Acho was acclaimed for his academics and athleticism. He was one of 2010's most highly decorated student athletes, winner of the Academic Heismanand named 2010-11 men's Big 12 Sportsperson of the year.
He also excelled in football. During his junior and senior year, he totaled 19 sacks, 31 tackles, seven forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries. He was also team captain in 2010.
With the Cardinals, he has gotten some time on defense, but had played mostly special teams. The switch from college defensive end to NFL linebacker has been difficult, became easier with the help of his teammates.
"The transition into the league not only playing a different position, but going into the NFL, is always tough," said coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Acho has found the intensity of a professional game to be his challenge.
"I'm starting to read offenses quicker, and know what to do at a faster pace," he said.
Whisenhunt said Acho's intelligence and hard work is what put him on the team and on the field every week.
With all of the changes and distractions that come with transitioning into the NFL, Acho believes his faith is what keeps him on the right track.
"It's a tough environment," he said. "Every day I have my struggles, but I think just being able to maintain and know that the only reason I'm here is because of my faith in Christ, and I have to keep on believing that in order to succeed."
While Acho is waiting for his time to shine on the field, his actions off the field are already making impact. His father, Sonni Acho, is the founder of Living Hope Ministries, and every year the family goes to Africa for a medical mission trip.
The mission brings doctors, nurses, surgeons and dentists for natives in need of the help.
"I have been able to go about five times over the past couple of years, and I'm going to be able to go some more and move it forward," he said.
For now, his main focus is football. He hopes to be on the field more often in Seattle Sunday to help resurrect the defensive line that was tested in a loss against the Redskins.
"We definitely have to get into our playbook more, understand the concepts, and work together as a team," Acho said.