Matt Goncalves: Indianapolis Colts Rookie Files

Overlooked throughout his football career, Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Matt Goncalves looks to make a name for himself in the NFL.
Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Matt Goncalves (76) blocks at the line of scrimmage against Duke Blue Devils linebacker Shaka Heyward (42) during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium.
Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Matt Goncalves (76) blocks at the line of scrimmage against Duke Blue Devils linebacker Shaka Heyward (42) during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a game where it does not take long to identify the best players on the field.

From highlight-generating plays to racking up numbers in the box score, elite talent is typically easy to spot. Players are acknowledged by the media and fans for their abilities and impact on winning games.

But a few players sneak under the radar despite their exceptional talent. They may be overlooked now, but receiving the recognition they deserve is only a matter of time.

This is "Rookie Files," a series on Horseshoe Huddle that gives you the backstory of every rookie for the Indianapolis Colts. Going player by player, we look at their journeys to the NFL and what makes each unique while also detailing how they help the Colts. Next up, Matt Goncalves, whose talent has surpassed the attention he has received at every level.

From Hardwood to Gridiron

Football player Matt Goncalves stands next to his father in a navy jersey.
Matt Goncalves stands with his father, Bill Goncalves, after an Eastport-South Manor football game. / Matt Goncalves X

Goncalves was born on January 26, 2001, in Manorville, N.Y., to Bill Goncalves and Dawn Goncalves-Brown. Bill has always been close with his three sons, with Goncalves calling Bill one of his biggest supporters.

Growing up, Goncalves loved basketball. He was on the court with his brothers every chance he could get, and Goncalves played the game in an organized fashion throughout high school.

Despite his love for basketball, Goncalves began to realize in middle school that football was his best sport. He was bigger than almost all of the kids his age, allowing him to be a beast on the gridiron. Goncalves lettered in basketball all four years of high school, but his future was in football.

Goncalves enrolled at Eastport-South Manor High School to continue his football journey. He played multiple positions for the Sharks, including offensive line, tight end, and defensive end. But by his junior year, coaches realized Goncalves was at his best protecting the quarterback.

Unfortunately for Goncalves, his junior season was a wash. A knee injury in the second game of his season forced him to miss the rest of the year. It was a heartbreaking blow.

"The injury was devastating, worst thing in my life," Goncalves told Newsday. "I gained some weight and hit the weight room to get stronger. And the hard work paid off."

When Goncalves returned as a senior, he took over the starting left tackle spot and led Eastport-South Manor to the playoffs. He earned All-State and All-Suffolk County honors, ending his high school career with a bang.

Because of the injury, Goncalves was overlooked by many schools in the recruiting process. He had only received offers from FCS schools before the spring of his senior year. But after he was healthy, Goncalves impressed in recruiting camps with his size and power.

Goncalves became a three-star recruit and the No.5 ranked player in New York. He became the top-ranked offensive lineman in New York for the class of 2019, generating more interest as a couple of FBS offers finally arrived.

Goncalves committed to the University of Pittsburgh for head coach Pat Narduzzi the summer before his senior season. Goncalves headed to Pitt in the summer of 2019 as Narduzzi's highest-ranked recruit in the class. The offensive tackle had finally made a name for himself and intended to keep it that way.

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A Bright Future Ahead

Football player Matt Goncalves stands in a white jersey ready to block a Virginia Tech player.
Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Matt Goncalves (76) blocks Virginia Tech Hokies defensive lineman Amare Barno (11) during the second quarter at Lane Stadium. / Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Goncalves arrived at Pitt in July of 2019, ready to compete. He redshirted his freshman year, allowing him to settle in and learn the offense.

Goncalves saw his first game action in 2020 during the Panthers' COVID-shortened season. Goncalves started the final three games of the season at left tackle while also seeing snaps at left guard throughout the season. He played in nine contests and was named a Freshman All-American, making the most of his opportunities.

As a sophomore, Goncalves started the season as a backup tackle for the Panthers. But that did not last long, as Goncalves broke through as the starting right tackle just after the midway point of the season.

Goncalves started the final five games of the year at right tackle, all victories. The Panthers finished the 2021 season third nationally in scoring and eighth in total offense. Goncalves had proved he could handle starting duties at multiple positions and was ready to be a full-time starter in 2022.

Goncalves broke out as a junior, starting all 13 games (eight at right tackle, five at left tackle) on his way to a Third-Team All-ACC selection. He also made the All-ACC Academic Football Team, a nod to his success in the classroom. Goncalves was playing the best football of his life, and people were noticing.

During the summer before his senior season, Goncalves was considered one of the better offensive tackle prospects in college football. He received high marks from NFL scouts, with some teams ranking him as a top-50 player. As long as 2023 went as expected, Goncalves would hear his name early in the 2024 NFL Draft.

How Quickly People Forget

Football player Matt Goncalves warms up before a game in a blue shirt.
Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Matt Goncalves (76) takes the field to warm up against the Clemson Tigers at Heinz Field. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Goncalves was named a team captain for the Panthers before the 2023 season. The senior had high expectations for the year ahead and was named a preseason All-ACC tackle. He wanted his last season at Pitt to be his best.

Goncalves started the first three games of the 2023 season for the Panthers at left tackle. During that third game against West Virginia, Goncalves suffered a left foot injury that would require surgery on his big toe. His season was over.

The injury was a hard pill to swallow for Goncalves. The opportunity to play one more season with his brothers at Pitt was no longer, and Goncalves would finish his college career with 24 starts on the Panthers offensive line. Goncalves also missed the chance to raise his draft stock, with the injury likely having an adverse effect.

As the pre-draft process began, Goncalves had not yet finished rehabbing his big toe. He accepted an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl but did not practice or play. Goncalves could not participate at the NFL Scouting Combine either, with only his measurements taken in Indianapolis.

It was not until his pro day at Pitt that Goncalves was finally cleared. At 6-6 and 317 pounds, Goncalves ran a 5.20 40-yard dash with a 30.5-inch vertical and 19 reps on the bench press. It was a solid showing by Goncalves but would have been better with more time to train.

A year ago, Goncalves was seen as a top-50 pick. Now, there was no guarantee he would hear his name called before Day 3. The potential Goncalves had shown as a prospect had long been forgotten.

While Goncalves met with numerous teams throughout the spring, he did not have a clear idea of where he would go. The Colts were one of a few teams who stayed in contact with him throughout the process. Offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. was particularly high on Goncalves, pushing the Colts to add him to the unit. Sparano's persistence paid off.

On Day 2 of the draft and with the third round well underway, the Colts traded up for Goncalves from No.82 to No.79 with the Arizona Cardinals. It was a rare move for the Colts, but one Goncalves will be eternally grateful for.

"It means the world," Goncalves admitted after he was drafted. "The fact that they can trade up to go get me, it meant absolutely the world to me. Just getting that call, it was a dream come true. I've had talks with the Colts and it's been good conversation. So, a little bit of a surprise to me but this morning I kind of envisioned wearing a Colts hat and my dreams came true."

How Goncalves Helps the Colts

Football player Matt Goncalves stands in a blue jersey ready to block another player in a white jersey.
Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Matt Goncalves (76) blocks at the line of scrimmage against Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive lineman Kyle Kennard (9) during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Goncalves is joining a Colts offensive line that saw a massive rebound in 2023. The 23-year-old from New York could help the unit take another leap forward in 2024 and beyond.

The reason Sparano pushed for Goncalves is because of what he put on film. Goncalves is exceptional in pass protection, allowing just three sacks in 937 pass-blocking snaps at Pitt. His long arms and hand strength help him keep pass rushers at bay. Goncalves is also solid as a run blocker, using his power to move defenders and create holes.

Goncalves brings tremendous versatility to the offensive line as well. He split his starts in college between left and right tackle, but can also play both guard positions and took snaps at center in practice. He also brings a fierce competitiveness that will fit well within the Colts offensive line group.

Goncalves provides immediate depth to multiple positions along the offensive line as a rookie. However, Goncalves has the potential to be a starter for the Colts as early as next season.

Starting right guard Will Fries is entering a contract year in 2024, and it remains to be seen if Indy will retain him. With the Colts already paying big money to Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, combined with the impending extensions of Bernard Raimann and Ryan Kelly, it will be hard to pay everyone on the starting unit.

Goncalves could step in as the starter at right guard in 2025, using his skills as a pass protector to keep Anthony Richardson clean in the pocket. Wherever he slots in along the offensive line, Goncalves is committed to ensuring Chris Ballard and the Colts made the right choice in taking him.

Goncalves may have been overlooked at various points in his career, but that has never stopped him from achieving his goals. And now, Goncalves is determined to make the other 31 teams who overlooked him pay for their mistake.

"(The Colts) won't regret this pick, promise you."

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Andrew Moore


Andrew Moore is the Senior Analyst for Horseshoe Huddle and an Indianapolis Colts expert. Andrew is also the co-host of the Horseshoe Huddle Podcast and the former co-host of A Colts Podcast.