Steven Conway, seated center, has signed to play football at N.C. Wesleyan. Others in the photo are, left to right: seated, Conway’s brother Lucas, father Lee, mother Veronica, sister Faith, aunt Susan Hill; standing, East Carteret Principal Katherine Steele, Athletic Director Tod Morgan, Conway’s Pop Warner coach T.C. O’Neal, East Carteret coach B.J. Frazier, Assistant Principal Juanita Russell and aunt Karen Fulcher Piner. (Contributed photo)

BEAUFORT — Steven Conway barely got on the field as a junior. A year and a half later, he’s signed to play college football.

The recent East Carteret graduate’s significant improvement has him headed to N.C. Wesleyan.

“I played with a lot of good players, and so when senior year came, it was my time to shine, and I just took that opportunity,” Conway said. “I really wanted to go out there and play my senior year.”

The 6-3, 305-pound lineman played on the PAT and field goal units as a junior, and according to coach B.J. Frazier, even that was a struggle.

“He went from someone getting winded running from the sideline to the field, to staying on the field for an entire series and then ending up playing both sides of the ball to end the season,” he said. “I’m so proud of him.”

A switch flipped for Conway during the second semester of his junior year. A player who once took 30 seconds to run 110-yard sprints cut it down to

18 seconds.

“That’s incredible for 300 pounds,” Frazier said. “He put in the hard work, and he got what he deserved.”

Both Frazier and Conway gave assistant coach Bryan Shelton plenty of credit for the player’s improvement. The two developed a healthy competitive relationship in practice.

“He was a big motivator as far as conditioning and strength training,” Conway said. “I got stronger, got faster. I went up 50 to 100 pounds on pretty much all of my lifts. It took a lot of perseverance.”

The confidence gained in the weight room and on the practice field in conditioning drills soon transferred over to Friday nights. Conway started at center and also nose guard for a team that went 8-5, earned a 21-14 win over West Carteret in the Mullet Bucket and advanced to the second round of the 1A state playoffs.

“Winning the Mullet Bucket, that meant a lot to me, meant a lot to our town,” Conway said.

He’ll join a N.C. Wesleyan squad that ended the season with three straight losses but captured its most wins since the 2016 season with a 5-5 record.

A standout student with a 3.5 GPA who was on the student council and took part in Model United Nations and speech and debate, Conway has been rewarded by the Division III Rocky Mount school for his hard work both on the field and in the classroom.

“It helps that he’s smart,” Frazier said. “They worked it out so he’s paying close to nothing. To go from not playing at all for three years, to getting on the field, starting, going to college to play ball and get it paid for, it’s really something.”

Conway plans on majoring in business or political science. He’ll have to continue to up his game to play at the next level but still has plenty of room to get better. He was one of the youngest members of his graduating class at 17.

“I’ll have to improve pretty much everything,” he said. “It will be a lot more physically demanding and will take up a lot more time. But it’s always been a dream of mine since I was a kid to play college football.”

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