Last fall marked Texas Longhorns defensive coordinator Manny Diaz‘s second year in Austin. After an outstanding first season with the Horns, last year, Diaz’s defensive squad posted their worst statistical season in school history. This year, with two of his star players back from injury (Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks) as well as a more experienced group of players, Diaz is looking to right the ship. While much of this off-season was spent trying to turn things around, it was far from the most important work Manny Diaz did.
Earlier this summer, the young defensive coordinator called up former Longhorns Sam Acho, currently with the Arizona Cardinals, and his younger brother Emmanuel Acho, who currently plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, and asked them if he and his wife could accompany them on their annual trip to Nigeria, where they spend time each year providing medical care to people in need.
For the last ten years, the Acho brothers have traveled to Nigeria with their father, a Dallas-area psychologist and founder of the Christian foundation, Living Hope Ministries. The purpose of the foundation, which Mr. Acho founded twenty years ago, is to provide medicines surgeries to those living in rural villages around Nigeria. They hope that one day soon they will be able to build a two-million dollar hospital to help even more people.
In the past, the Acho brothers have taken teammates with them on this life-altering trip; this year, they took Manny Diaz.
In an interview on the Longhorn Network, Diaz said that he and his wife were sitting in church one Sunday and each felt led to do some sort of missions work. Diaz, who had previously attended an event for the Acho’s foundation, immediate called up his former players and told them he wanted to join them on the mission trip.
When asked about his experiences helping the people of Nigeria, Diaz had this to say:
What jumps out first is the need (in Nigeria). There is such a need, and in a way, the first feeling you have is is the feeling of being so inadequate because there is so much work to be done.
There’s such a wide spectrum of emotions you are feeling because when you are there, you don’t have the distractions of life. When we are here and we’re home, there are so many things we can just fall into that distract us. There, even when we weren’t at work, we were still on the mission. You feel high highs and low lows. It’s amazing, it’s fascinating, it’s frustrating, it’s everything all in one from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed.
This year, Diaz and Emmanuel Acho estimated that their ministry team of forty people was able to help over 2,000 patients receive medical care and medications and perform over 100 surgeries, but Diaz says that so much more could be done if and when the Achos are finally able to build the hospital they’ve dreamt about.
He said that while a trip like this is indeed a life-changing event, it’s also a “life-exposing event” and it is in doing things to serve others that we learn most about ourselves.
Too many times, we as football fans often forget that football is just a game and it’s easy for us to lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s easy for us to yell at coaches when we think they should be doing things differently, but in the end, that’s not what matters. Kudos to Diaz, as well as the Acho brothers, for realizing that life is about so much more than football.