Bears leader/mentor/fill-in Sam Acho wants to ’dominate, wreak havoc’ in 2018

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Bears outside linebacker Sam Acho (93) celebrates a sack of Vikings quarterback Case Keenum last season at U.S. Bank Stadium. Acho had three sacks last season. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

BOURBONNAIS — One of the reasons linebacker Sam Acho is still here is because he’s a great guy to have around.

Besides being a capable fill-in when somebody gets hurt, Acho is a leader on and off the field — a character guy, a team guy, a guy young players can learn from.

“You couldn’t pick a better mentor for those guys,” outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley said.

Rookie Kylie Fitts discovered that from the moment he was drafted.

“I think he’s one of the best leaders on the team,” Fitts said. “Right after I got drafted, I got a text from him, welcoming me in. Since Day One, he’s taken me under his wing and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but as he begins his eighth NFL season, Acho wants to be much more than just a mentor and valuable fill-in guy. With Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston gone and Aaron Lynch missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury, Acho is being counted on more than ever to produce as a starter. He says he’s ready.

“You’ll just see a dominant player on the field,” Acho said. “That’s what you’re going to see. It’s easy to talk about — we all know that. But as long as God gives me the opportunity, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not afraid of it anymore. Every time I’m on the field, it’ll be the goal to dominate, to wreak havoc. That wasn’t my goal before, but now it is.”

Never afraid to extol his faith, Acho, who turns 30 on Sept. 6, said “the love of God” has altered his on-the-field mindset.

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“My reputation is as a guy who’s always in the right place at the right time,” Acho said. “Consistent. Steady. Doesn’t make mistakes. Sometimes you get caught up in that reputation. Instead of being a playmaker, you start saying, ‘Make sure I’m perfect.’ But perfection isn’t the goal. Excellence is the goal. I’m trying to be excellent.”

At a position defined by sacks, Acho was deceptively productive in 2017, when he had three sacks. As a rookie with the Cardinals in 2011, he had seven sacks in his final 11 games. So while his quest for domination seems a bit far-fetched, the idea that Acho can reach another level of production is not that unrealistic.

“There’s more to me than people know about,” Acho said. “Even my teammates are starting to see a little bit of that on the field — people are going to see a lot of that. There’s so much that I’ve been keeping in for a long time and now I’m finally just letting it out. At this point in my life it’s like, there’s no more holding back. You couple that with the opportunity and it’s a recipe for domination.”

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