Once known as Pete, he’s Coach DeSouza now, because chasing this new dream means separating business from friendship, because doctors told him the old dream was dead.
DeSouza became the Terrapins starting right tackle in 2010 after classmate Justin Gilbert tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He was an All-Met at DeMatha and an “all-around good guy” at Maryland, as Gilbert says. And like many of his teammates, DeSouza zoomed around campus on a motor scooter.
One Thursday evening in October of that year, around 9 p.m., Gilbert and Bennett Fulper wondered why DeSouza hadn’t come home. Then they got a call. DeSouza was traveling westbound on Campus Drive when a vehicle smashed into the scooter, breaking both of his legs. Gilbert and others rushed to the scene. They saw scattered parts, a dented car and a totaled scooter, brightened by street lights and the ambulance in which DeSouza was strapped.
He rehabbed like crazy, making it all the way back to Maryland’s scout team. But further progression became too risky. Team doctors saw future injuries. DeSouza saw himself in a wheelchair, unable to play in the yard with his future children. “Life is so precious,” he thought. “I want to live.”
“All of a sudden, realizing the game he loved he’ll never play again,” former DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said. “It’s been taken away from him for life. Usually there’s an end to something. There’s more of a graceful ending. And this was very abrupt.”
Before one weekend this spring, Coach Randy Edsall brought DeSouza into his office and asked him to become a student coach. He would help direct the scout team, and assist on the offensive line.
“Obviously I’d love to be out there on the 50-yard line blocking, but teaching guys, communicating and talking about the game and stuff, I feel a bigger passion coaching than playing. That’s what I want to be when I grow up,” said DeSouza, as if being 6 feet 7 and 300-plus pounds and working on a Football Bowl Subdivision coaching staff wasn’t already grown up.
DeSouza always knew he’d coach once his playing career ended. He worked McGregor’s camp, where the coach remembers kids calling him Big Ol’ Pete, like some sidekick in a Western comedy. They ooh-ed and ahh-ed at his stature, then listened as he taught them to shuffle and combo block.
“He approaches it with a very business-like attitude,” Edsall said. “He understands what his job is, and he’s doing the job to the best of his ability. I see a guy, given the position that he’s in, trying to show guys what to do. I see a guy who’s just calm, cool, collected in how he approaches the coaching profession.”