TAKING THE NEXT STEP: Two Springwood athletes sign to play collegiate soccer

Published 9:23 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

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Taking the next step. Two Springwood seniors — Jake Han and Eric Jeong — took the next step in their soccer journeys on Tuesday, announcing their destinations where they will play college soccer. Jeong will play at West Alabama while Han is going to UAB. 

“When they came here, both of these young men had a goal and that goal was to get a high school education and get a college scholarship to further their soccer careers,” Springwood athletic director Joey Burch said. “We at Springwood are happy to have been a part of their process getting to the next level.” 

It was a decision that was based on academics just as much as it was athletics for the two Wildcats. 

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“Initially, I had committed to UAB, but I changed my mind about where I want to go because I want to be a pharmacist,” Jeong said. “West Alabama has a great pharmacist program and a really good soccer team as well.” 

Han said: “I talked a lot with the soccer head coach, and it felt like a good fit… I want to eventually design athletic wear that will help student-athletes like myself analyze how to effectively exercise.” 

It has been a long journey for both young men as they are on the precipice of graduating high school and advancing their academic and athletic careers. Both individuals are members of the UMA FC soccer team and have worked their ways up the ranks. UMA FC coach Andrew Howoon Jo has been a major factor in the development of both players on and off the soccer field. 

“He really wants us to express ourselves as human beings and show our personality,” Jeong said. “Before we are soccer players, we are human beings. That is something he has taught me.” 

Jeong is not the only one of Jo’s many soccer disciples that have taken his words forward with them. 

“He has really helped me develop my mentality,” Han said. “I used to have a hard time physically and I cried a lot, but he kept pushing me to get better. He gives me motivation and confidence because of his courage.” 

Despite the two heading to different colleges, they will remain teammates on the semi-pro UMA FC team where they hope to make more lasting memories on the soccer field together. This will give the two a chance to play competitive soccer during the offseason as well as keep in soccer shape. 

Han knows that it will be tough to carve out minutes as a freshman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His goal is to earn 30 minutes of playing time per game in his freshman year before doubling that in his second campaign with the Blazers. In the meantime, he will get a chance to play competitive minutes with UMA FC, who are in the midst of their inaugural season. 

Jeong, a midfielder, looks to cement a starting position early in his time at West Alabama with his ability to link defense to attack. 

The two are still looking to sharpen their skill before getting started with their college teams in the fall. They will get just the chance to do that as UMA FC still has six games to be played in its inaugural season right up the road at Callaway Stadium in Troup County.