Responsible for six of the Rams’ 12 game-winning goals as a senior in 2017, midfielder Rafael Andrade Santos is headed to play at the professional level after a three-year career with the Black and Gold, earning numerous accolades over the course of his career.
Those titles include Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year and two Offensive Player of the Week awards in 2017. Santos was named to the Men’s Soccer 40th Anniversary All-25 team and racked up 20 goals, 49 points and 53 shots on goal over the course of his career.
“It was really special,” Santos said. “I think I did a lot of good things, and I think I could always do more … I was named with a lot of guys that played for a long time.”
D.C. United drafted Santos in the fourth round, 74th overall, but he was released. Despite being released, Santos does plan to play professionally once the next season begins, but declined to reveal details.
“I had an injury in November that took me out of the A-10 final,” Santos said. “I went home and went back for the draft and the combine, not feeling 100 percent, but I was still feeling [pretty good about] the draft.”
Although Santos had some issues with his knees, he was still happy to be drafted. Previously projected to be drafted in the top 15 of the first round, that November injury hurt Santos’ status. His senior season was his best for the Black and Gold.
“Coming into senior year, it naturally happened,” Santos said. “I scored a lot of goals and we went to the tournament for the fourth time in four years.”
Santos netted a goal from 30 yards out as one of a pair during a game against Maryland, helping VCU claim a 3-0 victory against the top-15 Terps.
“That was one of the best goals I’ve ever scored,” Santos said of the strike.
Teammates played a factor in Santos’ career as well, specifically forward Jorge Herranz and midfielder Francesco Amorosino. Santos was roommates with Herranz and Amorosino for three and two years, respectively.
“It created a really cool bond [between us] and we had an amazing season too,” Santos said. “Steven Dal Molin was behind us, so it was cool being teammates to them.”
Santos isn’t sure what he wants to do beyond soccer, as he has chosen to focus on playing professionally for now while finishing up a major in business and a minor in media studies at VCU. However, after his playing career has concluded, he still wants to be involved with soccer, hoping to still be around the sport in any capacity.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Santos joined a company that brings players to the U.S., attended a soccer school in Aberdeen, Florida and traveled to Europe during a spring break before making the decision to attend VCU.
“It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Coach [Dave] Giffard was like a dad to me,” Santos said. “As soon as I came here he gave me the full support to be myself and to succeed.”
Santos received NCAA All-America honors in 2017, which he said humbled him. As he prepares to graduate, Santos is hopeful that his former teammates will keep perseverance in mind, despite losing in this season’s A-10 championship game.
“With guys that make big plays and have their roles, the team is going to go far,” Santos said. “Just if they have the desire and the heart to outwork the other team at the end of the day, that’s what matters. We should take our chances out there and be impactful, make big plays and go to another final.”
Adam Cheek Staff Writer