Dawson County soccer player Cole Dennis celebrated with his "soccer family" last week when he signed to play at the collegiate level for Middle Georgia State University.
The Dawson County High School senior and his family listened while coach after coach stepped forward to talk about his passion for the game from a young age and the way Dennis had fallen in love with the sport.
Head coach of the high school program, Jed Lacey, said that when Dennis first came to play for him one of the first things he told his coach was that he wanted to play in college.
"A lot of kids say that and then they kind of phase out," Lacey said. "One thing about Cole is it just kept picking up and picking up. Of all the kids I have had here, I think he deserves it more. He worked on the field. He has worked in the classroom. He played year round soccer and this is his life."
On Feb. 24, Dennis signed a letter of intent to make that happen.
"This is the biggest day of my life," Dennis said.
"Cole is a unique, special individual. I say unique because for a man of his age to have the whereabouts of where he wants to be and what he wants to do in life is very rare. The maturity, the work ethic, the passion for the game, the skill sets, the coachability. He has set himself up for success," said University of North Georgia head men's soccer coach Patrice Parris.
United Futbol Academy Branch Director William E. Mostellar Sr. said he has seen Dennis give back to the sport in ways that many do not.
"Sports does not necessarily build character, but it reveals it," Mostellar said. "I have had the privilege of seeing Cole not only on the field as a player, but on the field as a referee and as a coach. There are few individuals who give back to a sport as much as he has."
The head coach for Middle Georgia State, Elvar Gudjonsson, said that Dennis will make an immediate impact on their program.
"I am extremely glad that he chose Middle Georgia. I needed a player in his position. He is obviously an excellent student. He has great potential as a player on the field. He is going to make a big impact immediately," he said.
Dennis has played since he was 3 years old and tried other sports over the years including basketball, cross country and was a kicker for the football team this year but soccer is where he said he belongs.
"I am better with my feet," he said.
Dennis said his signing to play at the collegiate level is an important step in the process that he hopes will one day see him as a professional athlete.
"I hope to continue things on from here and I hope one day maybe I can play professionally. That's the main goal. College is a big part of this process," he said.
Dennis chose Middle Georgia because he believes in Gudjonsson's coaching philosophy and because he will be able to study engineering and possibly aviation.
As for now, Dennis said this year's Tiger soccer team is the most unified he's ever been a part of and they have high expectations for this season.
"I really hope that we can win state this year," he said. "It is big expectations, but that's got to be the main goal."