By SUSAN LAX, UK Athletics
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Paschal has been named one of five members to the inaugural 2019 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team, Uplifting Athlete announced today.
Joining Paschal on the team are Kent State wide receiver Antwan Dixon, Davidson linebacker George Hatalowich, Syracuse offensive lineman Sam Heckel and Penn student assistant Anthony Lotti.
For 12 years, Uplifting Athletes has recognized a Rare Disease Champion. Starting in 2019, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifts from highlighting an individual leader in college football to a team concept that provides an opportunity to recognize leaders in college football that have made a positive and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community.
The Prince George’s County, Maryland native has made an inspiring return to the football field after overcoming a malignant melanoma that appeared on the bottom of his foot just before training camp was to open in the summer of 2018. He underwent three surgeries and monthly immunotherapy treatments for more than a year before returning to action.
Paschal battled back to return on a limited basis for the final three games of the 2018 season and has made an immediate impact this season as a starter. In 12 games this season, he has totaled 34 tackles, 9.5 tackles (second on the team), 3.5 sacks (third on the team), two fumbles, one pass breakup and one blocked kick in helping the Cats advance to their fourth straight bowl game.
“We feel strongly that our obligation to the Rare Disease Community is to share the powerful and compelling stories of people inside college football who have lived the rare disease journey, as patients and advocates,” Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long said. “I believe this will be the start of a tradition recognizing those in college football like Josh who are inspiring, serving and supporting those who need it the most.”
An Uplifting Athletes awareness campaign, the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team powered by Sanofi Genzyme will be celebrated at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. on March 6, 2020 and at Uplifting Athletes’ Young Investigator Draft at Lincoln Financial Field Philadelphia March 7, 2020.
Nominees for the award were solicited from any NCAA FBS, FCS, Division II or Division III institution or college football program nationwide.
Past Rare Disease Champion winners consist of seven FBS players including USC long snapper Jake Olson (2016), UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (2018) and Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates (2015), one FCS player, a Division III quarterback, an FBS assistant coach and an administrator from AFCA.
The Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team is a member of the National College Football Awards Association. The NCFAA encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935.