Brito finishes what his coach started

Zach Smart

The trail that led Graciano Brito to Quinnipiac was both unlikely and unusual. Growing up in Cape Verde, a scenic republic located off the Western Coast of Africa, Brito did not play one game of high school soccer.

“All my life I was a basketball player,” said Brito, a former silky-smooth point guard who played for the 17-and-Under Cape Verde national team in both basketball and volleyball. “I use to play 3-on-3 pick-up games of soccer (in Cape Verde), but I wasn’t into it. Basketball was my thing.”

So what was Brito doing on the pitch last week, scoring at will en route to establishing himself as the nation’s top goal-scorer last week.

He was simply proving that through commitment, an engine of perseverance, and hard work, the road to success will straighten out.

Brito arrived in the United States at the age of 18, with little knowledge of the English language and no social or economic ties. During his high school years at Cape Verde, he maintained a strong interest in the international business world, revitalizing the mindset of members of different cultures and discovering methods of doing business overseas. But the language barrier and access to a fiscally feasible higher education presented a challenge.

Brito moved in with an aunt in Bridgeport, Conn., picked up a soccer ball and quickly made his presence felt on the playground scene. Brito, a freakishly athletic junior midfielder/forward, began carving up defenses in shark-size bites, turning many heads in games that featured collegiate players.

Bobcat coach Eric Da Costa heard about Brito from one of his players at Teikyo-Post, where Da Costa was coaching at the time. Cabral took Da Costa out to the parks to see the Cape Verdian kid who had quickly made a name for himself.

Da Costa was instantly sold, signing Brito as a top-profile recruit that Post wanted to invest four years in.

Brito red-shirted his first year at Post, getting acclimated to a new environment while focusing hard on his studies. Through grueling hours in the library and devoting time to learning English via television, music and communication with teammates, Brito registered a 3.8 GPA during his second semester at Post.

After seeing him in the gym a couple times, Post basketball coach Mike Donnelly urged him to try out. But with school work, soccer, trying to master the learning curve, and his commitment to a part-time job at a grocery store taking up much of his schedule, Brito had to pass at the opportunity.

He credits Da Costa for helping him master the transition to the collegiate level. When Da Costa got the Quinnipiac job in the summer of 2004, he said he had to take Brito along with him.

“Eric Da Costa has been like a father to me,” said Brito, harkening back to his days as one of Da Costa’s early recruits. “We have a father-son relationship. What I learned about soccer, all of it, is what Eric has showed me.”

That’s not to say, however, through workman-like persistence and a painstaking work ethic both on the field and in the classroom, Brito has come a long way in a short period of time.

“It’s all about working hard to achieve what I want,” said Brito, an international business major.

Brito’s mother Camdida, who he credits for shaping his life and career, helped him buy into the notion of shouldering a titanic work ethic.

It has certainly rubbed off on her son. Everyday, Brito makes a 30-minute commute back and forth from Bridgeport. After laboring through school and soccer, he reports to his night job as a store clerk.

“It’s all about what I want, I never thought in my life that I would be in college. I would never even think about graduating from college. I have the chance now, I have to take advantage of it. I’m just focused, and realizing that dream.”

Brito’s name has been etched in record-book lure this season.

Following a Northeast Conference Player of the Week award, Brito earned a spot on the College Soccer News National Team in mid-September. His sublime weekend was underscored by a hat trick and the game-winning goal in thrilling a 3-2 triumph of Army. Brito has emerged into the go-to-guy, netting five goals in the ‘Cats first four games of the season. Quinnipiac is off to a 4-0 start for the first time in program history.