By LARRY VAUGHT
Media members are not supposed to have favorite players on teams they cover but I just can’t help liking Kentucky junior Josh Paschal a lot. He’s overcame skin cancer to not only get back on the playing field but now figures to be a key, key player for UK this season.
He’s being moved from linebacker, his natural position, to the defensive line where UK is shorter on depth.
“We’re going to move him back in. Just with our depth at outside linebacker and his ability to play inside and be an impact player inside (on the defensive line). The great thing about Josh is he’s been very versatile but so unselfish,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
“He knew a year ago, really going back two years ago, that we had depth inside and not as much outside and he wanted to help the team. Now he realizes there’s some depth outside and we need some impact players inside. And he is versatile and really, it’s about him and his body and what it just naturally does. He is just a big human, he’s a big person and I think right now is the best he’s been about being big but comfortable.”
Paschal doesn’t have to worry about adding weight to play in the defensive line like some players might have to do.
“He can still be very quick twitch like he is and be an impact guy inside, so we’re really excited about that,” Stoops.
But here’s an even better reason to be excited about Paschal, who could be an X-factor for the UK defense this season.
“This is the best he’s been in a few years, because of the injury and because of the cancer and the surgeries on his foot and all of those things. This is the best he’s looked; he’s had a great winter and is feeling good and moving around really good and really comfortable so I’m excited for him, and naturally he’ll help us,” Stoops said.
Paschal not only has the versatility to make this move but he’s also unselfish enough to do that because he knows it will help the team. Stoops says he’s excited for Paschal and I know Stoops likes him, too, because two years ago with no sleep Stoops after he rode a bus from Washington, D.C., to Lexington as a chaperone for his son’s school trip he went to watch Paschal get baptized.
I saw Paschal Tuesday at the 12th Region Girls Tournament in Lincoln County when he came with a friend, former UK football walk-on Dee Smith, to watch Smith’s sister play for Mercer County.
Paschal gave me that big smile and strong hand shake like he always does and explained how excited he was about this football season. Me, I was just excited to see a guy who knows how to do the right things on and off the field and a player I know I will be rooting for to have a healthy, productive 2020 season.