By RODRICK ANDERSON
Already 600 miles from home, Sulphur High School senior foreign exchange student Raul Gonzalez’ talents will take him a little further from home.
Gonzalez signed with Parish Junior College (Paris, Texas) on Thursday to play soccer.
The PJC Dragons play in the NJCAA Division I Region XIV.
Gonzalez plans to get a degree in Civil Engineering while on a soccer scholarship.
“I had the tour of the college and practiced with the team and everything,” Gonzalez said. “I had a really good impression from the campus and from the team.”
While Gonzalez had already traveled to several countries playing semi-pro soccer, he decided a year ago that he wanted to see where else his skills on the field could take him.
“I used to play in Mexico in kind of a professional team but I really wanted soccer to make something for my future,” Gonzalez said. “So, I realized the best option was to try to find a scholarship here in America and the only way to do that is to come as an exchange student.”
He had made several trips to the United States before while on vacation with is family, but Gonzalez didn’t really have a particular place in mind when he decided to become an exchange student.
Through a random selection process, Gonzalez ended up in Sulphur. At first, being in a place far different from his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico was daunting for Gonzalez, but he soon settled in with his host family, Michael and Ronda Wyninger.
“I had been to American before on vacations with my family,” Gonzalez said. “I was afraid of being away from my family for a whole year but everything turned out really good.
“I met some really nice people. They (Wyningers) really helped me a lot. They would try their best to make everything that I asked them to happen. I am really glad I met them. It is really different from my city over in Mexico but I really like it.”
Although he struggled with a foot injury most of the lone season he played for the Tors, Gonzalez made an impact every time he was on the field. He scored two goals in regulation back in February in the Tors’ penalty kick loss to Lafayette in the second round of the Division I playoffs.
“Any time he played for us, he was a total impact player,” Sulphur head coach Trevor Foolkes said. “Any time he got in, the other team was man-marking him.
“He basically scored in every game he played for us. His impact was tremendous, I just wish we had him for every game.”