Matt Goncalves, who came back from a devastating knee injury during his junior season, signed his national letter of intent Wednesday morning to play football for the University of Pittsburgh.
He inked his signature inside the Board of Education room at Eastport-South Manor's Junior-Senior High School and faxed the letter to Pitt's athletic office, where football coach Pat Narduzzi accepted the commitment to make it official.
"I went down to the board room a little late because I couldn't get out of class early," Goncalves said with a laugh. "So when I walked in it was such a surprise. All my teammates and coaches and everyone was there. And what an honor to have my mom and dad and the whole family there to make it an even greater experience. Greatest day ever."
Goncalves, a 6-6, 305-pound two-way tackle, was a Newsday All-Long Island first-team selection this season after dominating on both sides of the ball.
"Matt didn't know the school was making such a big deal for his signing day ceremony," Eastport-South Manor offensive coordinator Freddie Stroh said. "He was surrounded by his teammates, our school principal Sal Alaimo and his family. He didn't expect to have such a big crowd to see him sign. We had his highlights playing in the background. His signing is really a big deal for our program and our community."
Goncalves played only two games and missed the rest of his junior season after suffering a season-ending knee injury. He rehabbed and turned his sights toward the weight room, where he gained 60 pounds and moved from the tight end/defensive end positions to the tackle spots.
"The injury was devastating, worst thing in my life," Goncalves said. "I gained some weight and hit the weight room to get stronger. And the hard work paid off. It's such a blessing that I'll have a shot to play right away at Pittsburgh."
Goncalves, at left tackle, was known as a road grader for flattening opponents on running plays. He also was an astute pass blocker — the Sharks' offensive line did not allow a sack in the final six games of the season.
"Our quarterback, Nico Morello, was injured on the first play of the first scrimmage against Sachem East and tore his ACL," Goncalves said. "It was our goal to make sure no one touched him. No sacks, no hits. It was his senior season and he worked himself back to the field."
Morello threw for 1,527 yards and 15 touchdowns as Goncalves protected his blind side.
"Nico was throwing between 20-25 times per game and was confident he wasn't getting hit," Stroh said. "The line made sure he was safe. And it started with Matt Goncalves."
Goncalves is Eastport-South Manor's second player to sign to play football at an ACC school. Offensive guard Sean Karl played for the University of Virginia in 2011.