By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In your spare time, Google search the names Demetrius Dyson, Ramon Foster, Ron Slay, Rodney Carney and Renardo Foster.
There is a common factor between all these standout athletes — they’re all related. But there is one member of the family you can search and find historic/glamorous photos at the same time. Brighton High School senior Desiree’ Dyson has earned her own page in cyberspace.
“It just kind of feels normal because it’s what I’ve always been around,” the Covington native said. “It’s motivated me because I’ve watched them reach their goals and work hard for everything in life. It’s taught me to be competitive and work hard for anything I want. And not to limit myself.
“The first thing that would pop up in a Google search of me will be I was Miss Tennessee Teen Princess 2015,” Dyson added. “There has been a Miss Tennessee Organization since 1953. I was the very first African-American to be crowned. I was also Miss Tennessee High School America 2016. I competed nationally against very other state title holder in San Antonio, Texas. I received third runner-up in that pageant.”
Before Dyson began to shine in pageants and modeling, her older brother Demetrius was a highly recruited guard while playing at Brighton and Covington. The elder Dyson landed at UMass before playing at Samford.
Ramon Foster reached the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Renardo Foster made the league with the St. Louis Rams.
On the hardwood, other relatives of the Dysons like Ron Slay and Rodney Carney shined with Tennessee Vols and Memphis Tigers respectively. Carney played several years in the NBA.
While those guys are still making an impact across the United States and playing overseas, Desiree’ has validated her titles and historical status closer to home.
“It meant a lot to me knowing that there wasn’t ever an African-American to be crowned,” she acknowledged. “It was really hard for me to reach that accomplishment. Knowing where I come from, Covington, Tenn., which is predominantly African-Americans.
“Being a public figure for my county and town to look up to meant a lot to me because there are lot of little girls up look up to me in Covington, Brighton, Munford,” Desiree’ added. “Just knowing I can be a positive role model for them does mean a lot.”
The class, elegance and intelligence Dyson displays in front of impressible boys and girls growing up in Tipton County was instilled in her by her parents Twyalla and Maurice.
“It’s really taught me a lot,” she said. “My parents have raised me to be a respectful and classy young lady. It’s just natural for me to represent myself, organization that I’m crowned in and my parents. I always want to make them proud and a good public figure.”
Demetrius exemplified those parental lessons for three years at Brighton High School. A “Big Man” on campus, when Desiree’ arrived to BHS she had big shoes to fill.
“When I first came to Brighton I was known as Demetrius Dyson’s little sister,” she lamented. “I absolutely hated that. I never wanted to be known for just being their little cousin or your his little sister. I wanted to have my own name.
“Now I’m known as that pageant girl or that model,” Desiree’ continued. “That really means a lot me because I’m no longer Demetrius Dyson’s little sister. There’s something more to me than just my brother’s accomplishments and what’s he’d done.”
Through academics, cheerleading, clubs and even front office work, Desiree’ has left her own legacy at Brighton High School.
The 17-year-old is ready for her next chapter in life of attending the University of Memphis to double major of Sports Medicine and Communications.
Dyson said many have invested in her maturity like the team in her family and at her schools over the years. Also on the pageant circuit a cohesive unit helped Desiree’ reach historical heights.
Robin Scott has been Dyson’s director since she was 11 and has become like a second mother to her. The trio of Rodney Hullender and his husband Keith along with his sister Pam have been her trainers and support system behind the scenes.
And Kent Purham “has been the best walking trainer” helping Dyson transform her bow-leg walk into a graceful glide across stages throughout America.
With success in her blood, strong educational foundation placed in Tipton County and some of the best instructors behind her, Desiree’ is ready to added to her Google profile.
“I also plan to be another state title holder in the Miss division of the Miss America or Miss USA organizations,” she concluded. “Most definitely you’ll see me on a pageant stage soon.”