From Lisbon, Portugal, to Irving, Texas, Gonçalo Pernas is the epitome of a hard-working student-athlete, here to reinforce the goalkeeping ranks of the University of Dallas’ men’s soccer team as well as to grow both as a student and a Catholic.
Joining an immense incoming freshmen soccer class of 16 players, Pernas stands out not only as the lone goalkeeper of the bunch but also for his lively and energetic play.
On the field, he is a fearless and vocal goalie. Loud and aggressive as he is quick, he organizes his defenders with confidence, stopping most shots before they even happen, while springing into action when anything does slip through the cracks. Even with only a handful of practices under his belt, the team has already been treated to a host of spectacular saves, showcasing his talent and his potential.
Joining the soccer team was a no brainer for Pernas. Growing up in Lisbon, Portugal, soccer was always a dependable constant in the 19 year old’s world.
“I’ve been playing my whole life,” he explained. He still supports his hometown team S.L. Benfica, and proudly displays his love for the Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Although he’s been playing soccer since before he can even remember, he was not always the outstanding goalkeeper he is today.
“I was [a] striker when I was a kid,” Pernas recalled. “When I was twelve or thirteen…my team back home in Portugal needed a goalkeeper, and I volunteered. That’s usually how [finding a goalkeeper] works.”
Even from a young age, he was willing to do whatever his team needed. This attitude reflects his deep passion for the sport of soccer itself, which also manifests in his fierce competitive spirit. With the UD men’s team only just starting preseason, he’s already making his mark on the field, bringing that warrior’s will with him to UD.
That spirit is invaluable to a team. With everyone fighting for game minutes in practice, if just one player shows up every day ready to play their hardest, it raises the level of intensity for the entire squad. That kind of diligence, especially in a freshman, doesn’t go unnoticed.
According to senior captain Brady McNamara, Pernas’ work ethic and attitude are exactly what he wants to see in his players.
“He brings a lot of talent and competition…a good work rate, and a desire to win,” McNamara said when asked about his youngest goalkeeper.
Pernas started his journey to UD at Mississippi College, a private Baptist college in Clinton, Miss. Arriving in Clinton at 17 years old through an international student-athlete agency, it was his first time in America and his first taste of American culture.
When asked what his first impression of America was, he answered with nuance and tact.
“The idea that I had [before I came] was completely different,” he explained. “But I understand now that each state is different…you cannot say that [what] America is in Mississippi is what it is in Texas…it is all different.”
Mississippi College did a lot towards furthering his sporting ability, but Pernas yearned for a fuller academic experience, as well as a more authentic taste of Americanism. From his own research, the University of Dallas met all his criteria. In addition to the sporting side, the school’s Catholic environment and focus on individual advancement was an important factor in his arrival here.
“I wanted to get to a higher level in terms of academics,” he said, calling UD’s curriculum “prestigious.” Combined with an impressive recruitment campaign from Head Coach David Hoffmann, it was enough for Pernas to know he wanted to come to Irving.
Growing up Catholic, Pernas immediately appreciated not only the religious overtones of the university but also of the empowerment that came with the curriculum.
One of the main reasons he chose UD was because of the open, Socratic way of learning.
“The teachers allow us to speak a lot,” he said. “There is a lot of debate and discussion.”
As a business major, he spoke glowingly of the classroom environment.
“That’s one of the best things I’ve noticed…that the teachers make you participate,” which makes for informative classes and, ultimately, more independent students.
From a religious point of view, UD’s Catholic environment was unique. The accessibility of Mass, for example, while not required, was important to him.
“The religion is not forced upon you,” he said, explaining that it was offered as an option. That is something he values very highly; the freedom to be autonomous in your faith, and the tools to be successful while doing so.
Gonçalo, like most freshmen, doesn’t have a concrete plan for after graduation. That doesn’t bother him, however. UD’s extensive network of business internships is an attractive future option and could hold the key to unlocking his future in America. However, with so many possibilities still to present themselves, he is prudently biding his time. When prompted on his future plans, he smiled and said simply: “We’ll see what happens.”
For now, his focus is on devoting himself to the present, working as hard as he can both on and off the field. Classes take up his mornings and afternoons, while practice takes up his evenings. He has shots to save, essays to write and people to inspire. From the testaments of those around him, he’s already well on the way to doing all three.