Conway becomes first Cyclone to join college ranks

CCS senior will play football at NC Wesleyan

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The Community Christian School eight-player football program has grown the last four years, much in the way senior tight end Austin Conway.

So it stands to reason that the 6-foot-2, 255-pound Conway would become the first Cyclone to sign with a collegiate football program, which he did Friday when he made official his commitment to North Carolina Wesleyan College of the NCAA Division III USA South Conference.

Conway said that he was recruited as a guaranteed walk-on by NCAA Division II programs Catawba, Chowan and Wingate in addition to being offered by Wesleyan’s USA South rival Maryville (Tennessee) College. However, the decision to become a Battling Bishop was an easy one.

“I got a lot of academic scholarships, which paid for most of it,” he said. “But I also went on multiple visits and I loved the coaches there, the players I talked to.”

The son of Tracy and Ronn Conway of Kenly, Conway, who sports a 3.821 GPA at CCS, said that he is the recipient of a Trustee Scholarship at Wesleyan, which pays for his tuition and books.

He plans on majoring in secondary education with a double minor in math and sports administration.

“What I prefer to do is be a football coach in high school and possibly work my way to AD,” he said. “But I also know in public school, you have to be a teacher to be a coach and I’ve always been really good at math, so I kind of wanted to become a math teacher but then have that sports administration background so I could work my way up and be a coach and then an AD.”

But before he goes into coaching, there’s plenty of football left to play for Conway. He left his mark at CCS, with a program-record 945 receiving yards, 85 catches and 18 touchdowns. Conway was a two-time first-team All-Colonial Conference selection for the Cyclones, earning the league’s offensive player of the year honor this past fall when he was also selected as a North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A All-State pick.

As a four-year starter for the Cyclones, Conway has been right in the middle of their resurgence. The program started in 2010 but lack of healthy players caused the team to cancel the remainder of its season. After a year off, CCS restarted the program at the junior varsity level before playing its second varsity season in 2014, when the Cyclones went 0-9. However, as head coach Andy Jackson pointed out in remarks to the audience at Friday’s signing, Conway — who played defensive end as well as tight end — has been a part of each of the 14 wins in Cyclone history.

“He’s really got great hands,” Jackson said. “We’d love for him to be faster but he’s big and strong and he doesn’t drop ‘em once he touches ‘em and that’s what you want in a tight end.”

Even when everyone in the stadium, including the opposing defenders, knew the ball was going to Conway, he would make the catch.

“I love being the go-to guy and when you score a touchdown, everybody knows your name!” Conway said with a grin.

While Conway said there will be a mild adjustment to playing 11-man football (which he last did as an eighth-grader at Springfield Middle), the real change will be the speed at which the college game operates.

“For me, I think the only thing that I’m going to have to get used to is the speed of the game,” he said. “It’s so much faster in college than it is in high school. I don’t think the extra three (players) will be all that much more difficult but having all those players going way faster and everybody hitting the weights every single day.”

For now, he’s excited to be a part of the Battling Bishops program under head coach Jeff Filkovski.

“The program’s on the up and up. They had kind of a down year this year (2017) but they’ve got, like, 40 freshmen coming in,” Conway said. “They’ve won, I think, three conference championships the last 10 years so they’re on the up and up. Coach Ski, he’s got a lot of connections and knows what he’s doing. I just loved all the coaches and everything about it.”