TAMPA – Jackson Eckley gravitated towards being a goaltender early on in life.

Starting his soccer career at age 5, the 2019 Tampa Catholic starter has always been a goalkeeper, saying he’s never wanted to play in the field.

Voted the JV defensive MVP as a freshman, Eckley earned the promotion to varsity last season, earning varsity defensive MVP. He led Hillsborough County in saves with 211 and finished No. 5 in the state of Florida in that category.

The 6’1″, 170-pounder saw his Crusaders make a Class 2A state title run as a freshman, getting called up late in the season. A year ago, Tampa Catholic went 7-10-7 with Eckley in net. So far this season, TC is 1-2.

He called his sophomore season a big chance.

“Our team had come off of a strong run to the state finals. You want to follow that up with a strong start to the season, but that wasn’t necessarily the case for us,” Eckley told Prep Sports Scouting. “I learned that no matter what time of the game or who we’re playing, I can’t be complacent on the field. There is always another move that can be made. Whether that means I’m ready on defense or I’m communicating my teammates, I always want to be a part of the action in some manner.”

Eckley started playing soccer more competitively at age 12. He says he loves the game because every shot in soccer is different and the techniques are fun to learn.

“The reason I love goalkeeper is that of the range of skills that you need to have in order to keep that clean sheet,” he said. “You need to have the skills of an outfield player, but you get to dive around. Playing goalkeeper is one of the best feelings you can have — pumped full of adrenaline and ready to pounce.”

He called this year’s group a very talented team with chemistry on its side.

“We’re lucky that we have a team that consists of guys that have played together before,” Eckley said. “We need to maintain the same intensity throughout each game. We also play in a competitive division. We need to approach each division game as a must-win.”

On top of soccer, Eckley played football for seven years and baseball for three. His main focus now is soccer. He doesn’t have an athletic scholarship offer yet, but he has some interest.

Eckerd, North Florida and Florida Southern are the programs that have shown interest in him thus far in the state.

He called his biggest strengths his shot stopping and his long throw.

Eckley says he tries to improve every game and every day.

“I hit the gym with a trainer several times a week and work with my club goalie coach on different techniques,” he said. “If I’m not on the pitch working on things, I’m usually playing with friends or watching games and learning from the pros.”

11th-year head coach Kevin McCarron, a former Tampa Catholic soccer player in the late 70’s is someone Eckley looks up to. McCarron guided the Crusaders to its first state tournament two years ago for the first time since 2000.

“I feel very lucky to have learned under coach McCarron. He is very knowledgeable about soccer and is always giving me feedback,” Eckley said. “He pushes me to better my game and keep play quick and moving forward. A good distribution can go a long way.”

Eckley’s top three goals are to play college soccer, win a state title and record 40 shutouts over the next two seasons.

This kid is determined, mature and fun to watch on the backend. Soccer is a game of patience and if he can get solid performances from his team in front of him, Eckley will be able to put together a very solid junior campaign. Look for Eckley to top his numbers from a year ago, hence drawing more college interest.

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Quick Hitters

Favorite players to watch – Tom Brady, Manuel Neuer, David DeGea
Playlist before games – Migos, Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar
Favorite movies – Saving Private Ryan
Favorite TV shows – Stranger Things
Fun fact that you think nobody knows – “I like to fish and I love World/American History.”
Nickname from teammates or friends – “Big Bird”

Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.

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