When Dennis Pyetsukh kicked his first soccer ball at three years old, his family knew he was something special.
“We noticed when we tried different sports we noticed he really loved this sport and [it became] a very big inspiration for him,” said his father, Eugene.
The Dawson County High School senior signed with Brown University Jan. 24 and made his scholarship acceptance official in front of his proud family, coaches, teammates and friends in what Athletic Director Grady Turner described as a “big, big day” in Dawson County.
“Rarely do you ever get to make history. Dennis is unaware that he is making history today. Dennis is the first male athlete in the history of Dawson County Schools to sign with an Ivy League school,” said Turner. “Not many of us get to be first and no matter whatever happens, he will always be the first.”
While on a camping trip with his family, Pyetsukh and his father sat down to talk about the soccer star’s future plans, still awaiting a call from Brown.
“I was a little worried trying to figure out what my future will be next year,” said Pyetsukh. “On the way home the next day, as soon as I pulled into my driveway I got a call from the head coach and he told me they would like me to be part of their team and from that point on I was committed.”
But that was only half of the battle. He was still waiting on his official acceptance letter to the college through admissions.
In early December, that official letter came, solidifying Pyetsukh’s future plans at the Ivy League institution. When he announced the news to his family, they, understandably, were thrilled.
“I said ‘it’s the best Christmas present ever!’” said his mother, Natalya, grinning ear to ear.
Of course, Brown University wasn’t the only scholarship opportunity on the table for Pyetsukh, as he had offers from many other colleges including Mercer, Emory, Northeastern, Colgate, West Point, Georgia Southern and Georgia State. Ultimately, after a summer trip to Rhode Island and then his official visit in September, Pyetsukh decided that Brown was the best fit for him.
“Once I first went up there I really fell in love with the college and the environment,” said Pyetsukh. “I really started to find a place there and know that this is where I want to be for the next four years.”
Being accepted into an Ivy League school is no easy feat, but Pyetsukh currently has a 4.3 GPA and plans to pursue a degree in business and finance with a minor in computer engineering. His father believes that soccer actually helped him become more disciplined. With limited time in the day split between practice and studying, Pyetsukh learned that there is no time to waste.
“All that time and work has definitely paid off not only in the athletic field but with his academics as well to be able to go to such a prestigious school and better his education and provide just endless opportunities,” said Coach Derek Waters.
Pyetsukh’s athletic talent and passion for soccer was recognized early on in his life. He began playing in park and rec teams when he was three and has been playing travel soccer since he was eight. He also has several impressive wins under his belt, including two wins at the Disney Cup International, national tournament champion and league champion, according to his father.
“He has never missed a soccer season since he was three years old,” said Natalya.
His older sister, Dasha, often helped Pyetsukh kick the ball around when he was little and says she is going to come up to visit him at Brown every weekend.
“My brother has perseverance, he always hustles, he always tries his best and he’s a true inspiration to me as an older sister,” said Dasha.
All of his coaches had nothing but positive things to say about Pyetsukh both on and off the field.
“Dennis is one of the rare kids that – as coaches – we never had to coach him,” said Coach Gray. “We just basically tell him where to go and what position he is going to play and then watch him do his thing – and quite a delight that is as a coach is to have somebody that is just going to do exactly what you want them to do in a supportive, outstanding way.”
Assistant Principal Brody Hughes described Pyetsukh as a top student, top soccer player and “a role model for everybody here to do our best and strive to be better.”
“As coaches we can say a hundred times to do what’s right, you know, do this, do that, but when a player says it, it means so much more. Dennis is one of those players,” said Coach Chess Hamby. “When Dennis comes through and says ‘you know we got to do what’s right, now’s the time to do it,’ it’s going to happen. And that’s what you want in a player aside from all the athletic ability he has. He’s a great leader, and that’s going to take him much further in life than soccer will.”
There was one coach who played an important part of Pyetsukh’s life who was not there: Jed Lacey. Head Coach Lacey, who died in August 2017, recognized Pyetsukh’s ability from the beginning.
“Coach Lacey talked to me a lot of times about Dennis. And one thing he said to me that stuck in my mind since Dennis was in the tenth grade was, Jed told me on numerous occasions that Dennis may be – if he’s not he is certainly one of the top one or two best soccer players to ever play at this school,” said Tuner. “As I’ve watched him grow from the tenth grade on I think about that all the time and this year especially I’m going to think about it every time I see him play. I’m going to think about what Coach Lacey said about him and I want you to know what he thought.”
Coach Derek Waters also acknowledged that Lacey recognized Pyetsukh’s talents early on in his high school career.
“From a very early time your freshman, sophomore year there was something special that stood out about you,” said Waters.
Pyetsukh’s father, Eugene, also spoke about Lacey’s incredible impact on his son. According to Eugene, Lacey took Pyetsukh to see other schools and to show off his abilities.
“Thank you Coach Lacey. He is not here with us today but I am sure he’s watching,” said Eugene.