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Life’s journey carries Perez-Filho from Brazil to Janesville

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JOHN N. BARRY
May 8, 2008
— As a child growing up in soccer-mad Brazil, Enio Perez-Filho dreamed of being the next Pelé or Ronaldo.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Perez-Filho representing Brazil in the World Cup. Life interrupted.


Perez-Filho no longer plays soccer. And he no longer lives in Brazil. A family move to the United States when Perez-Filho was 8 years old eventually brought him to Janesville.


He is set to graduate next month with honors at Janesville Parker and will conclude a brilliant athletic career with 10 varsity letters and another likely trip to the WIAA state track and field meet.


For those counting, that’s 4,200 miles from his native home. But as far as Perez-Filho is concerned, there’s no place he’d rather be.


“It’s been fun and a great experience,” Perez-Filho said of his move to Janesville in November 2004. “It’s hard to believe that it’s (high school) almost over.


“I knew the move to Janesville would be difficult at first, but Brenda really made a big difference and has been very influential on my life.”


Brenda is Brenda Slatter. She is Perez-Filho’s guardian, along with her husband, Steve. Perez-Filho moved to Janesville with the Slatters because his mother was struggling to make ends meet in Orlando, Fla. Perez-Filho’s father still lives in Brazil.


Perez-Filho—Filho means junior in Portuguese—entered Parker as a skinny freshman in 2004. Countless hours in the weight room have transformed him. He’s now 6 foot and a rock-solid 180 pounds.


Joe Dye, Parker football and boys track and field coach, said Perez-Filho’s peers and the Parker teaching staff respect him.


“Enio’s a kid that has dealt with adversity in a lot of ways and handled it all with class,” Dye said. “The biggest thing he has going for him is that he has a good work ethic and is a guy that truly lived the true Parker experience—both in the classroom and in athletics.


“Leadership is not an easy thing to earn, and Enio is one of those kids that has been able to do that. He was willing to wear the hat that says, ‘I’m going to challenge people, and I’m going to expect those around me to work as hard as I do.’”


Perez-Filho is one of the fastest sprinters on the track team. He ran at the state track meet a year ago and will likely be a part of the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relay teams that will compete for spots in La Crosse.


As a junior, Perez-Filho finished second in the Big Eight Conference in wrestling at 160 pounds. He had lost only once during his senior season and had won two tournaments before a dislocated elbow ended his season at the Mid-States Classic in December.


It was the second major injury for Perez-Filho in two months. During the football season, Perez-Filho dislocated his left shoulder against Janesville Craig. He tried to play the next week against Beloit Memorial, but the training staff would not let him.


“I had my helmet under my arm and was ready to go into the game, but the trainer grabbed it from me and said, ‘No way,’” Perez-Filho said. “It was tough because, as an athlete, you want to be out there with your teammates.


“The competition is what I’m going to miss the most. Nothing beats game day—especially in football.”


Perez-Filho knows what it’s like to go to a strange place and try to adapt. He’s done it twice in his life. He arrived in the United States at age 8, and the only English words he knew were “Coke, no ice,” after his mother told him to tell the stewardess that on the flight from Brazil. Perez-Filho grew up speaking Portuguese and still remembers most of the language.


The move to Wisconsin meant snow and frigid conditions that he had only heard about.


With graduation next on his docket, followed by enrollment at UW-Milwaukee in the fall, Perez-Filho has sound advice for those who hope to follow in his footsteps at Parker.


“You can never prepare early enough,” Perez-Filho said. “When it’s the middle of winter and you don’t want to get up early to go to school and lift weights, make yourself get out of bed to do it.


“And always try to do more than the guy next to you.”


THE PEREZ-FILHO FILE

Person I admire most: My guardian, Brenda Slatter.


Pregame routine: Nap.


Best sports memory: Pinning Brady Hamil my junior year in the Parker/Craig dual meet.


TV show I never miss: “Wheel of Fortune.”


Favorite food: Lasagna.


Favorite movie: “Men in Black.”


In 10 years, I’ll be: An architect.


Best invention the last 100 years: Text messaging.


If I could have one superpower, it would be: Teleportation.


If I could play any other sport, it would be: Hockey.


Favorite sports hero: Dan Gable.


My favorite saying: “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”


If I could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), it would be: My late grandfather.


CD currently getting the most play: Jack Johnson—‘Through the Static.’



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