Atlanta means family, and no one feels that more than ATL UTD 2 forward Jackson Conway. Born in England, the Conway family moved to America when Jackson was one and a half years old. He keeps his connection to his home country and his family through soccer, though. His grandfather played professionally, and the sport runs through his blood. Getting to share the game with his family who are here in Atlanta means a lot to Conway.
“Every kid wants to make their parents proud and that’s what I’m trying to do. They come to every game. Hopefully they’re proud of me, seeing me go through that level, starting as a three or four year old then signing my first contract, scoring my first goal and seeing every game,” Conway explained with a smile. “It’s a true honor to play in front of them and keep the sport going in our family. Hopefully my kids play soccer as well. It’s ok if they don’t, but hopefully it will make them happy as well.”
Pride for the city he grew up in and the club he has played for since 2016. Conway joined the Atlanta United Academy before Atlanta United or ATL UTD 2 started. As Conway moved up with the Academy teams, his skills on the pitch earned him a full ride to Clemson. However, Conway decided it would be best for him to stay in Atlanta and sign with ATL UTD 2 when given the opportunity.
“I started at the Academy pretty young, at the very beginning actually. Wasn’t really the main guy, didn’t really play that much the first year. But then my second year, I started kicking on. I think I had 45 goals my second season in 30 some-odd games. I was playing pretty well which gave me the confidence to take that next step to the professional level,” Conway remembered with passion. “Physically, I was a pretty big guy. There were bigger guys, stronger guys, faster guys, but if I know that I can handle it then I should be alright.”
That confidence has only grown stronger as he transitioned on to ATL UTD 2, giving fans and teammates something to cheer for as he lasers in goals from just past midfield. While still with the Academy, one such goal earned him a spot on the ESPN SportsCenter countdown. Earlier this year, Conway scored a similar goal in a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
With three goals on the season so far, Conway hasn’t shied away from the level of competition. Being a young player on a young team would be hard for anyone, but Conway sees it as a challenge to prove himself.
“Confidence is a big thing, especially being a young player. I just turned 18 and that takes a toll on your confidence, being a young player and playing amongst guys who have families and have to pay bills,” Conway continued. “And then there’s me, just going in being 17 and just trying to play for fun. It’s a bit different, but these next couple years are going to be a big step in my career, proving myself, showing that young players have that ability to play at such a high level and for a big club as well.”
Conway plays not only for himself but also for all the Academy players trying to move up. He plays for his family back in England and here in Atlanta. As he continues to grow as a player, he also gets to be a fan with his father. He attends every first team match with his father and continues to create memories with his family.
“It was a couple years ago, and it was probably one of my first games for the USL team. My grandfather came over and watched me play,” Conway reminisced on his favorite soccer memory. “It was against Charleston Battery I think. I think it was actually my debut. He came and watched my debut for the USL team a couple years back. That was a pretty good memory.”
Now Conway gets to make new memories with the coach who originally brought him into the club. Interim ATL UTD 2 Head Coach Tony Annan first recognized the talent that Conway possessed and helped support him as he moved up through the Atlanta United system.
“Tony was one of the main reasons I’m here where I am today. The things he taught me and that other Academy coaches taught me was a different level than other coaches,” Conway shared. “Tony’s got a huge background and connections, he knows the game very well. He’s the biggest supporter in my journey here. He helped me take this step to the next level with advice he’s given me and all the patience he had. I thank him very much for what he’s done for me.”
Conway works hard every day that he steps on the pitch. He loves the game and continues to push himself to be a better striker, player and teammate. The 18-year old still has more goals to conquer, but for now, he’s thankful he gets to play in Atlanta with his family by his side.