ROCKLAND – “Where’s João?”
That’s what Rockland High boys’ football coach Dan Kimball asked his players on a Friday afternoon earlier in the school year.
He was looking for João Goncalves, a first-year defender, in training ahead of a big game next Monday.
A week later, the following Friday, his single absence then doubled to two. Goncalves’ teammates said he was gone for the weekend. Kimball, of course, asked, “Does he go away every weekend?”
“Coach,” the players replied, “He bulls.”
“I was like, ‘What?'” Kimball recalled with a laugh. “And then they showed me the video I posted and I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.
Goncalves was traveling to Pilesgrove, New Jersey, to compete in qualifying for the World Junior Finals on September 18.
Prior to this point, he attended competitive rodeos dating back to April and earned runs in six of them to score a total of 223, good for second place in the 14-15 age group of seven. other runners.
At the end of the qualifying round, Goncalves reserved second place for the end of the year, earning him a trip to Las Vegas for the final in December.
“He takes the multi-sport athlete to a whole new level,” Kimball said. “It’s really impressive – I’ve never seen anything like it. We usually have our football/basketball players, but never like a football/bull rider player. It’s really unique.
Although he is only a freshman in high school, this is nothing new for Goncalves.
Bull riding goes back deep into the roots of Goncalves. A national pastime in his family’s native Brazil, his father and uncles started “some time ago”, Goncalves said, when they were younger, and his father passed it on to him when he was about 2 or 3 years old.
“But (my dad) never really forced me,” said Goncalves, who was born in Rockland. “I just got into it and really liked it.”
If Goncalves had to choose one, horse riding or football, which sport holds his passion the most?
In the middle of the question, he popped up: “Bull riding.”
“(It’s the) adrenaline rush,” Goncalves said. “When you stay, it’s just a feeling of excitement. You feel like you’ve worked hard enough for this. It makes you feel good.
That’s not to say his talents only go one way. Although he’s not starting for the boys’ soccer team at Rockland High, he’s the first defensive replacement on the bench and Kimball isn’t ruling out the possibility of Goncalves entering an expanded role next season.
“I knew he was tough as nails just from his style of play. Just a really impressive kid,” Kimball said. “He moves the ball very well, moves it well in space. He has a high IQ. He has all the (tools) in terms of defence.”
Goncalves started football when he was in first grade. The freshman was hoping to make college at the start of the school year and he did, which he says “means a lot.” Goncalves is one of 14 underclassmen on the Bulldogs roster, which has collectively contributed to the team’s 8-3-1 record.
Rockland, on the verge of making its eighth playoff appearance since 2012, has won eight of its first nine to open the season, including a six-game winning streak from Sept. 14-30. It was just as Goncalves qualified for the bull riding final.
“They’re a special team. They’re very supportive. We work hard together as a team and try to win all the time,” Goncalves said. “They’re a fun team.”
Aside from his academic workload, Goncalves’ most time-consuming job this fall is on the football field, but he still sets aside time to bull run every Saturday at the New England Rodeo in Norton, where he trains and competes. to the amateur rodeos (which usually start at 6:30 p.m.) as he awaits the World Junior Finals this winter.
“When I was younger I wasn’t as good as I am now, so I was really frustrated,” Goncalves said. “But now I focus and try to do good, which is working now.”