“Having daily interactions with players and listening to them speak about their lives is a great way to spend the day,” said Clint Conway, a PTHS alumni, career coach, and little brother to a dear friend. There are certain events or moments that flash before your eyes and instantly transport you to a different time and space. Memories that flood your mind after hearing a song, having a chance encounter, or looking at a photograph. In that sweet moment, time is suspended and an uncontrollable smile crosses your face.
One particular memory was shared by long-time friend Nicole Conway Williams, Conway’s ‘big’ sister. Williams said, “when Clint was a little boy, he wanted to run away from home. I tied a blanket to a pole with a sandwich. When he got to the end of the sidewalk he yelled for me to come down there to hold his hand while he crossed the street.” That cute little blonde hair, blue-eyed boy with the big grin and dimples grew into a man with a family, career, and a love of high school football.
That love of high school football has turned coaching into a career for Conway. He shared, “I never considered coaching as a career, but after more than 20 years, I believe most who do coach are born to do it.”
“As a kid, having access to the sidelines, the coaches, and the players likely contributed to how comfortable I am in that space,” said Conway. His dad, Charles was the sports commentator on the radio for the PTHS games in the 80’s and early 90’s. Conway got to tag along as his sidekick. Both Mom, Jeannie and Dad attended every game since little league. As the story goes, Conway started hiking a football as soon as he could walk. His mom said, "We are extremely proud of the man and especially father he has become."
In high school, he played offensive guard for the Tornado football team. He was a member of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), an officer for the Bleacher Bums and played basketball. He lettered three years in football and was All-Purchase, All-Conference, and All-State Teams.
“I was blessed to be part of some of the most successful teams in PT history,” explained Conway. “We played in three state championships, tar-and-feathered Mr. Mayfield, our biggest rivalry all three years, and beat powerhouse teams like Lou Trinity, Brentwood Academy and FT Thomas Highlands.”
Mentors weren’t on short supply for Conway. He fondly remembers Coach Troutman, Ray Moore, and teachers Korte and Smith. Cotton Walker played a critical role in his development. Walker was a family friend and watched over Conway while principal at Paducah Middle School and again as athletic director at PTHS.
Most of Conway’s close friends played high school sports. His best friend Casey Allen was the best man at his wedding and vice-versa. To this day, the duo are in touch almost daily. Other long-time friends include Brett Williams, Kevin Garland, Duane Dew, Jason Gentner, and Radu Pop.
After graduating high school in 1990, Conway received a full scholarship to Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in Charleston, Illinois. Conway played several positions including offensive guard, center and tackle.
While at college, Conway became fast-friends with two African American young men from the suburbs of Chicago, Clint Hyde and Duane Conway. Though their backgrounds were very different, the trio hit it off. “I couldn’t answer to Clint or Conway, so they called my ‘Country’. Conway said since he was from Kentucky, everyone assumed he lived on a farm. Funny story...Conway’s sister said his pet name at home was Clinkie. You know you’re loved when someone gives you a special nickname.
Duane went on to play center for the Indianapolis Colts. He passed away five years ago. Conway said, “The funeral was the first time so many classmates had been at the same place at the same time since college.”
After graduating from EIU, Conway spent two years in Chicago playing semi-professional ball. Semi-pro players don’t earn a paycheck leaving Conway to find a job. He worked as a bartender in Oak Park, IL. John Mahoney from the television sitcom Frasier lived in Oak Park. “He was one of my regular customers,” said Conway. After two years, it was time to find a day job.
It wasn’t until 1996 that Conway found his way back home to Paducah. He started a successful commercial cleaning business with his best friend Casey Allen. After a year and a half, both decided to change directions. Allen went back to school to earn his teachers certificate and is now the Superintendent at Ballard County Schools and Conway started to work for Paducah City Schools. Part of that job included coaching.
Coaching has been Conway’s ‘breath of fresh air.’ Being a coach was definitely in the cards for him. While working at Cooper-Whiteside Elementary, he met April, a first grade teacher and a coaches’ daughter. Her dad, Yogi Trice, was a long-time coach and athletic director at Ballard Memorial High School. Coming from a coaching family, April understood the commitment coaches make to their craft. She was marrying Coach Conway. A man dedicated to faith, family, and football. “I can’t imagine being able to coach without her support holding everything together,” explained Conway.
A year later, Conway became head football coach at Paducah Middle School and assisted with the varsity team at PTHS. From 1998 to 2004, Conway was the varsity assistant coach at the high school. In 2004, he left organized coaching to pursue other careers but still kept one eye on the ball.
Conway kept the stats, scoreboard, and announced the ballgames over the PA at Paducah Tilghman. It wasn’t until 2017 that he stepped back into a high school coaching role. This time it was for McCracken County Schools.
After sidelining his high school coaching career for over a decade to focus on his children’s extra-curricular activities, family time, and career, an opportunity presented itself. This time it was for McCracken County Schools. “As fate would have it, there was a coaching change at McCracken. Marc Clark had been a great customer of mine at Hopkinsville High School and we developed a friendship during my time working with him. He approached me about helping out as a freshman coach.”
Marc Clark is in his fourth year as head football coach at McCracken County High School. He’s in his sixteenth year of coaching. Clark’s previous six years were with the Hopkinsville Tigers.
Conway said Coach Clark has a great work/life balance. He believes that it’s important to make sure the entire family is involved. As it stands, two of his children, Gracie. a senior at MCHS and Jack age 12 are both on the field with him during ball games. Gracie is a cheerleader and Jack is the ball boy. Conway said it’s such a joy running out onto the field with his daughter cheering and his son Jack by his side. His oldest daughter, Emma is a senior at the University of Kentucky.
This will be Conway’s fourth season at MCHS. This year, he’s in charge of the running backs “One of our players, Hunter Bradley, was recently named “Player of the Year’ for our district.” Bradley is a senior at MCHS and plays tailback, the one responsible for carrying the ball on the majority of plays.
Conway lights up when talking about his team. “Coaching high school football is second to my family in the ‘joy’ factor. Other than my own kids, it’s the best two hours of my day.”
COVID-19 has tried to take away some of that joy. Conway said it’s been tough on the players and the staff. “We were sidelined earlier this season for two weeks due to one positive case of the virus. Our players have done a good job though. They follow protocols and do what they can to protect themselves and our team.”
Conway’s family has experienced ups and downs during the pandemic too. Emma is finishing up this semester at college online. Gracie is a senior at MCHS and is missing out on some important moments like homecoming, senior night, and others. “Jack has had it the toughest,” said Conway. He’s in middle school, his classes are virtual, and he’s home alone most of the day. Basketball practice and games have been suspended. “It’s very difficult to stay in touch with friends and teammates that he would normally see at school,” said Conway.
After coaching for a number of years, it gives one time to reflect. Conway said, “I am blessed. I get to spend almost everyday with great kids in a career I enjoy. I come home to my wife and kids and I wake up every morning knowing I have a Savior in Jesus. That pretty much sums up my best day.”