Growing up as a child in the Brewster Projects on the east side of Detroit, nothing in life ever came easy for Shawn Conway, except for his natural athletic ability.
Conway shined as a star athlete on both the gridiron and the hardwood in his three years at Seaholm and is now currently playing football at Butte College in Chico, California.
In his freshman year at Butte, Conway played in eight games, had 28 receptions and seven touchdowns.
“The first four games I did not touch the field, I was discouraged,” Conway said. “But I kept working and in the fifth game I made it to third string and one of the starters got ejected so I had a starting spot. In that game I had 117 yards and two touchdowns and from the sixth game on I started the rest of the season.”
But the road to success at Butte was not an easy one, as Conway’s original plan was to play football at the University of Michigan before he self destructed in his final months at Seaholm.
When Conway was a child he grew up living with his mother and sister in the Brewster projects.
His first experience playing football was when he was a young child and he played for the Detroit Broncos youth football.
Conway first realized that he was Division One talent while he was at a tournament in Florida.
“My dad took me and my little league team down to Florida and we played in a football tournament.” Conway said. “I was the star receiver and did really good. And after that I started going to camps.”
Before Conway attended Seaholm, he spent his freshmen year at two different schools, Detroit Cass Tech and Detroit Cody.
Looking back at his freshmen year, Conway seemed to be disappointed with his actions.
“Freshman year I was a knucklehead,” Conway said. “At Cass Tech I never really went to class, and then I ended up fighting and transferring to Cody. At Cody I started to get back on track and after my last semester I moved out to Birmingham.”
Including his struggles at school, Conway also faced adversity at home as well, and the move to Seaholm seemed like the best option for him.
“My mother was incarcerated and my father and I weren’t on the same page when it came to living together,” Conway said. “We were fighting and we decided that it would be better if I came to live [in Birmingham]. It was a better chance of life.”
When Conway came to Seaholm, he moved in with the Pack family whose son, Richaud, was a junior and a star on the basketball team.
Conway first met the Packs through his experiences playing basketball with Richaud when he was in third grade.
“At first we started playing against each other and then we realized that if we were on the same team we would win every championship,” Conway said. “Once we got on the same team we would get together all the time. He’s like my brother.”
The Conway and Richaud Pack duo proved to be a great combination at Seaholm as well. In their two years together they brought the Seaholm basketball program to new heights. Their overall record in their seasons together was 39-5.
When Conway first came to Seaholm, there was a lot of buzz surrounding this 6’4’’ wide-receiver with blazing speed.
Chris Fahr, who was the Seaholm coach at the time, was awed by the talent Conway had.
“He was immensely talented,” Fahr said. “He was a very good athlete and seemed to excel at everything he did.”
Senior Sterling Johnson, who played football all four years at Seaholm, was a freshman and remembers the first day that Conway stepped onto the practice field.
“I thought he was a senior the first time I saw him play and he was so good, but he was only a sophomore.” Johnson said. “He played like a college player with his crazy moves.”
Johnson played varsity football and basketball with Conway and was always impressed with his athletic abilities and his sense of humor.
“It was fun playing with him because he was always cracking jokes and keeping everyone in a good mood while still pushing everyone with his athletic abilities,” Johnson said. “He always managed to go as hard as he could in practice even when everyone else was tired or down from a loss. He helped to make everyone around him better.”
Conway embraced being a member of both the football and basketball teams.
“I loved playing basketball and football.” Conway said. “Especially at Seaholm, the crowd, the student section, everything.”
Although Conway was welcomed with open arms by his teammates, coming to Birmingham was still a big change for him. “Growing up I was mostly around all blacks all the time.” Conway said. “The change of scenery was hard at first and it was different. But I learned to love it. I was able to learn new things and see new things that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had stayed in Detroit.”
Throughout Conway’s tenure at Seaholm he often was the center of attention due to his actions that got him into some trouble. This included multiple disciplinary actions due to violations of the student code. Due to these instances, Conway often found himself portrayed in a negative spotlight by members of the community.
But looking back, Conway realized that he brought most of that negative attention upon himself.
“[The negative perception] bothered me,” Conway said. “But that’s life, and most of it I brought upon myself. I just had to deal with it and keep livin’, and keep working towards what I wanted to become.”
Fahr thinks that Conway could have prevented most of the negative publicity, but was still bothered by the way Conway was sometimes treated.
“As far as Shawn being targeted, the only thing that really bothered me was that every student in [Seaholm] should be treated the same, no matter if you’re black white, good at sports, bad at sports, whatever they do,” Fahr said. “Everyone should be held to the same standard. Whether giving an athlete special treatment or giving him unfair treatment because he is a quote-unquote public figure. I think that everyone should be equal.”
In the midst of some off-the field issues, Conway was still focusing on his goal of becoming a division one football player, and he got that opportunity after attending a camp in February at the University of Michigan.
Conway was offered a scholarship right on the spot after attending Michigan’s junior day. Rich Rodriguez, who was the Michigan coach at the time, was impressed with Conway’s junior highlights and his performance at the combine.
One of the factors that comes along with accepting a scholarship, are the academic guidelines that the players must have in order to keep their scholarship, athletes must have a 2.5 GPA and a 17 ACT score.
Fahr helped out Conway during his recruiting process and they became very close during their time at Seaholm.
At first, Conway and Fahr had just a coach and player relationship, but it soon became more than that. Fahr became the father figure in Conway’s life, and was the one who got his name out to college coaches.
“At first [our relationship] it was just football player to a coach,” Conway said. “We learned to love each other and he became a second dad to me.” In June of 2010 Fahr became Conway’s legal guardian, and Conway moved in with the Fahr family in Clarkston.
To Fahr, this situation was more about changing someone’s life than about winning on the football field.
“I love coaching, but I also positively impact people, and I felt like I could positively impact him and give him a stable place to live,” Fahr said. “It was a neat change of scenery going way out to Clarkston to live with him [Fahr],” Conway said. “I didn’t really have any friends out there but he made me feel right at home and comfortable with him and his family.”
Senior John Glazier, who was Conway’s quarterback when he played on the football team, didn’t think that Conway moving in with Fahr affected the atmosphere of the football team.
“I thought that Fahr pushed Shawn the hardest,” Glazier said. “Fahr was always getting Shawn to dig deep and get everything he could out of himself that he possibly could.” Conway concluded his senior football season with a win over rival Groves and his future was looking bright, but he was not ready for the devastating news that he would be hearing. It was January 2011, and Conway had just been told by the University of Michigan that he was academically ineligible, and could not attend Michigan.
Conway’s GPA had been recalculated so it only included his core classes, and it fell short of the standards.
“It was because of my grades from my freshman year when I was being a knucklehead and messing around, from then I was playing catch-up,” Conway said. “And around January I found out that the amount of classes that were available, and I needed more to pull my GPA up, and it just couldn’t happen, it wasn’t possible.”
About two months after hearing the news from U of M, Conway and Fahr were getting into arguments, and Conway moved out of the home. “We were on different pages, seeing different things,” Conway said. “We both felt that it was best for me to leave.”
Fahr thought that the move out was necessary, due to the difficult times they were going through.
“It was one of those frustrating times,” Fahr said. “But I never stopped caring for him. It was just a time where we just realized that it wasn’t going to work. I was very frustrated with him. But I never stopped caring for him and wishing him the best.” Although many speculated that this fall-out was a major one, Conway claims that it only took a few weeks before him and Fahr had their relationship back on the same page.
“Coach Fahr is type of guy who can’t hold a grudge,” Conway said. “And I don’t like staying mad at people either, so we called each other and talked it out.” Fahr worked out his problems with Conway as well.
“I’m the most forgiving person and everything happens for a reason,” Fahr said. “And that happened for a reason… it just didn’t work out at that time.”
Fahr spent the last year coaching at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, where he was the defensive backs coach and special team’s coordinator. But being away from his family was too much, so now Fahr is back in Michigan living with his family.
Because Conway was ineligible to play Division I football, he had to enroll at a junior college, where he must play for two seasons before he can transfer to a NCAA Division I college.
Conway’s original intent was to go play at Grand Rapids Community College, but instead he took his talents to the West Coast to play at Butte. “I wanted to get away and be my own person, so I left the state and went as far as I could go,” Conway said.
Conway has enjoyed his experience so far at Butte and still has his sights set on playing Division I football.
The coach that offered Conway to play football at the University of Michigan, Rich Rodriguez, is no longer the coach at U of M. Rodriguez was hired by the University of Arizona and is still interested in coaching Conway.
“Rich Rod offered me [to play football] at Arizona so I might end up there,” Conway said. “But I’m keeping my options open so far.”
Conway had always had his sights set on UofM, but now his decision on where he will go to school is open.
“It’s pretty open right now,” Conway said. “I’d love to go to Michigan, but I’ve only talked to Brady Hoke (Rodriguez’s replacement at U of M) once since he’s been the coach and I don’t know what his plans are with me or even if he has any intentions with me so I’m just keeping it open.”