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Pahanish receives Danscak scholarship in Thomas Jefferson football program

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Ken Eber Photography | for the tribune-review
Braden Pahanish was the recipient of this year's Alex Danscak Memorial Scholarship at Thomas Jefferson. Pahanish was a three-year starter for the Jaguars, who captured the WPIAL Class AAA championship in 2015.

Braden Pahanish, a three-year starter on the Thomas Jefferson football team, concedes it’s one of the highest honors he has received in his high school football career.

Pahanish recently was named as the recipient of this year’s Alex Danscak Memorial Scholarship.

“This award is unique,” Pahanish said. “It doesn’t compare to any other award I’ve (ever) won. Others were (because of) accomplishments I’ve made during the season, or on defense. The Danscak award let me explain in full detail how TJ football can make you a completely better person off the field.”

Pahanish plans to continue his football career at California (Pa.) University, where he will study sports management.

He was one of the instrumental players behind the success of the TJ football program last year. The Jaguars won the WPIAL Class AAA championship, defeating Central Valley, 20-7, at Heinz Field.

“Braden has been a great leader and player for us the past three seasons. He is a well-deserving winner of the Danscak Memorial Scholarship,” said Bill Cherpak, Thomas Jefferson’s athletic director and head football coach. “He is like Alex Danscak in many ways in that he has worked very hard to achieve his success. We will certainly miss him next season.”

The Alex Danscak Memorial Scholarship was started in 2015 by his parents, John and Barbara, and the TJ football program.

Danscak was a TJ football player from 2007-10, and in September 2013, he passed away of natural causes at the age of 21.

“He was a great young man and an excellent teammate,” Cherpak said. “The scholarship is to honor Alex’s memory and (is) given annually to a senior football player who demonstrates the commitment and work ethic that Alex did.”

The Danscak family came up with the idea of creating a scholarship in Alex’s name that would be presented annually to a senior TJ football player who demonstrated the commitment and work ethic that Alex displayed.

The Danscak family members worked with Cherpak to come up with the specifics of how the scholarship would work.

The process decided on is for senior players to write an anonymous essay on what football has meant to their lives.

The essays, with names of the authors removed, are given to the Danscak family, who read them and pick a winner that most closely reflects their son’s memory.

The award recipient receives a $500 scholarship and a commemorative plaque, and his name is engraved on an award display that is showcased in the high school.

Cherpak raved about what Danscak meant to the program when the award was established a year ago.

“Alex was a low-key, quiet kid who did everything you asked him, worked hard, and just loved being part of the team,” Cherpak said. “He was a great teammate, and a great kid all around. If we had to pick a kid who was representative of the TJ program, it would be Alex.”

The award’s inaugural winner in 2015 was Austin Kemp, currently a freshman member of the Washington & Jefferson College football program.

“This award is about more than the game,” said Kemp after being named last year’s award winner. “It’s something I will take with me the rest of my life.”

Pahanish described his essay and his thoughts on receiving this year’s award?

“The main thing was about what TJ football has taught me and where hard work takes you,” Pahanish said. “When someone lets me write about what TJ football has taught me, I could write for days. It has prepared me for down the road more than any other program can do. I wrote exactly what TJ football has taught me, and it’s all things I will need sometime in life and even now.”

Cherpak believes the award is a tremendous addition to the highly acclaimed Thomas Jefferson football program. The Jaguars have won five WPIAL and three PIAA championships during Cherpak’s 20-year tenure.

“This is something great for the program to have because it’s something the kids really strive for,” he said.

“We appreciate that the Danscak family cares enough to give back to the future of our program.”

Brian Knavish contributed. Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or [email protected].

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