Richmond Hill’s Bryant Jackson took another step toward his dream of playing professional soccer recently.
The rising junior has been selected to play for the Atlanta United Academy’s training program.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Jackson was picked by the academy after being invited to try outs last spring. The team is part of the Atlanta United FC, which participates in Major League Soccer.
“It’s a way to bring players up through their system,” Jackson explained. “We train, practice and play with the goal in mind of playing in college and hopefully turning pro one day.”
No fewer than eight players from the academy recently signed to play Division I soccer, and the U16 team just recently won the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Championship, playing against academy teams sponsored by other MLS clubs.
Jackson said he knows he’ll benefit from the experience.
“I’ll definitely have to step my game up for that level,” he said. “Everyone there is as good or better than you.”
Jackson was co-player of the year as a sophomore this past season in Region 2-AAAAAA, scoring 24 goals in 21 games as the Wildcats won the region and reached the Elite Eight in the state tournament.
Richmond Hill Coach Robbie Flanders said it is unfortunate that Jackson won’t be with the Wildcats the next two seasons, but he is happy for him.
“This is a great opportunity for him,” he said. “This is huge for our school, soccer program and community to have a player reach this level and the opportunity in front of him to possibly make it pro one day.”
Although Jackson mainly plays striker, Flanders said he can have success at any position on the field.
“He’s a big, strong kid with lots of speed,” Flanders said. “His passion, drive and his competitiveness is what is going to help him be successful.”
Flanders added that Jackson is a “natural scorer” and “sees the game like a coach would.”
Jackson said he’ll miss playing for Richmond Hill, but expects the team to have a successful season. The Wildcats lose just two seniors from a team that finished 16-3-2 and placed five players on the all-region team.
“I’m going to miss my friends, teammates and family,” Jackson said about his impending move. “But it’s for the best.”
Jackson will attend Rivers Academy in the Atlanta area and live with a host family that previously lived in Richmond Hill.
“That helped ease my parents’ worries,” he said.