Alumnus Represents Brazil in Football World Championship
Heron Souza de Azevedo ’14 is finally living his dream.
In July 2015, Azevedo played wide receiver for the National Brazilian Football Team as it competed in the International Federation of American Football World Championship in Canton, Ohio.
Azevedo started playing American football in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2004, a year after graduating from high school. He immediately fell in love with the sport and has worked for the last decade to help it grow in his home country.
It’s a journey that has brought him to the United States, where he studied and played football at Pacific University, and back home, where he is a player and coach, as well as a teacher.
Azevedo came to the U.S. in 2009, attending Diablo Valley College, a community college in California.
“I started pursuing my dream of soaking up as much football knowledge as I could to bring it back to Brazil and help the development of the sport,” he said.
He earned an associate degree in coaching football, then came to Pacific to pursue his bachelor’s degree in exercise science and kinesiology.
“I decided to come to Pacific because the videos of the football team I watched and the conversations I had with some of the school staff made me feel very welcome and gave me the sense that I would have all the support I needed to complete my major,” he said.
Starting classes in January 2012, Azevedo found himself the sole “new guy” in spring football and felt the need to prove himself. He remembers a practice where he caught a deep pass by one of the best corners on the team, and later that fall, a scrimmage where he scored a 67-yard touchdown.
He earned a place on the field for game play when the Boxers faced Lewis & Clark in October 2012. In that game, he caught a 42-yard touchdown pass to help Pacific take an 11-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Ultimately, the team won 42-20.
“People interested in football in Brazil needed to see a Brazilian succeed in college football in order to take the sport further,” Azevedo said. “It was a milestone not only for me but also for the sport in Brazil.”
After graduating, Azevedo moved to Cuiaba, Mato Grosso, Brazil, where he is the offensive coordinator for the Cuiaba Arsenal, a Brazil-based American football team and coaches a women’s flag football team on which his wife plays.
“He has been helping American football develop in Brazil for many years, and I’m sure he is going to do much more,” said his wife, Pamela Martins, who spent much of Azevedo’s educational years with him in the U.S., studying English.
“Every day he wants to get better in anything he does; the sky is the limit for Heron.”
Azevedo is also an English teacher at a private school and a level-one CrossFit trainer, and he and a friend also provide activity training sessions for clients outside the Arena Pantanal, a World Cup stadium.
But earning a spot with the Brazilian National Football League is one of Azevedo’s top accomplishments. The team has only played four games since its founding in 2007, but in July it will head to the World Championship to take on France — the sixth-place finisher in 2014.
Brazil scored its first touchdown in World Championship play in the game July 9, though they ultimately fell to France.
Azevedo knew it would be a tough match, but he’s excited to see how far the team has come.
“Representing the Brazilian national team is about living my dream and the dream of all football fans in Brazil, while also proving to the world that we can compete with the best,” he said.