As Kentucky senior Kash Daniel wraps up his #BlueRootsTour this weekend and says a final goodbye to Big Blue Nation, you can bet that the pride of Paintsville will give his very best one last time, signing every autograph, posing for countless selfies and exchanging handshakes and hugs as one of the most popular players in UK history.
For Daniel, a former Mr. Football at Paintsville High School, being part of the resurgence of UK football still gets him a little choked up as he’s had to fight back tears of late while making the rounds with the local media. The fact that those tears are both real and authentic is what will forever make Kash Daniel a beloved figure for Wildcat football fans.
Daniel’s raw emotion comes from a special place, a deeply-rooted love for his home state and a maturity beyond his years that’s placed him in the spotlight of being a role model and inspiration to thousands of kids throughout Kentucky.
Was he perfect? Of course not.
Did he always get it right? Nope.
But when you break it all down, Kash Daniel just “gets it” which is high praise for any college student-athlete. He always understood what it meant to be a role model and ambassador for the Kentucky football program. He always understood the value of hard work, grit and determination, making him endearing to every hard-working Kentuckian.
Daniel’s legacy now extends from the playing field to the recruiting trail with a recent video posted for prospective recruits. It may not have the hype factor of the infamous Super Bowl commercial, but you can be sure that kids across the Commonwealth will get a few goose bumps when Kash Daniel speaks directly to them about playing at the highest level.
Here’s hoping that Kash Daniel will continue to be an unofficial “recruiter” this spring.
Just my take.. but 5 years ago on July 4th I made the best decision of my life up to this point to come play for @UKCoachStoops and his staff. It’s changed my life forever, and I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity. #BBN https://t.co/OS9OKNJDxG— Kash Daniel (@KashDaniel15) January 23, 2020
Daniel is now on the final leg of his #BlueRootsTour that ends on Sunday in Newport.
One new wrinkle in the Kash Daniel story is his recent vulnerability with the media as he’s talked openly about losing his beloved grandfather, bouts of depression and suffering multiple concussions that most certainly limited his production this season.
A lot to handle for someone still only 22 years old.
But through it all, nothing ever seemed to break Daniel’s spirit or love for the game as he battled back to turn in one of his best performances of the season with eight tackles in the Wildcats 37-30 win over Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. It would be his final game in a UK uniform.
Daniel finished the year with 58 tackles, third most on the team, and also had an interception in a home victory over Eastern Michigan. Most importantly, the legacy that Daniel’s senior class has had on Kentucky football will never be forgotten with back-to-back bowl wins in the Citrus and Belk Bowls.
For that reason alone, be sure to stand in the long line this weekend and say “Thank You.”
Can’t wait to get on the road and come see the best fans in college athletics! Kentucky is and always will be my home! Mark a date down on your calendar and come hangout with me! #BBN #BlueRootsTour pic.twitter.com/w5Vxx5npFc— Kash Daniel (@KashDaniel15) January 10, 2020
As I think about my lasting memories of Kash Daniel in a Kentucky football uniform, it’s not one specific play or even a flamboyant quote that comes to mind. Instead, it’s a calm, soothing voice as Daniel narrates a hype video for the 2018 UK-Georgia game that will forever be etched in my memory. Of course, the results were anything by memorable as No. 5-ranked Georgia dashed any hopes for an SEC title at Kroger Field.
But if you take a moment and listen to the words, you just might think this particular script was written especially for a hard-working kid from eastern Kentucky that bleeds blue. Better yet, read the words below to fully grasp the pride and emotion of “standing together” - not for that particular game - but for a program that’s turned the corner and changed expectations forever.
It Takes All of Us: Stand Together (Narrated by Kash Daniel)
Take a look around. What do you see?
There’s something in all of us. It makes us who we are.
The fighting spirit. The never ending belief.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again.
It takes all of us. All the time.
Every player. Every fan. Every play.
You’ve made a difference. Why stop now?
It doesn’t matter where you come from. What you look like. How old you are.
We are all in this together. A Big Blue Nation united as one.
Together, we’ve waited for this moment. Together, we’ve earned this moment.
A chance. An opportunity. You don’t want to miss this one.
Side by side. We represent the Commonwealth.
One Big Blue Nation believing in One Team.
That time is now.
A Future in Football?
So what’s next for Kash Daniel?
The first step will undoubtedly be a crack at professional football as Daniel recently signed with JL Sports, a Connecticut-based sports agency with over 25 years of experience representing top NFL talent and coaches.
It’s unlikely that Daniel will be a draft pick, but he will most certainly get a shot as a free agent and is working diligently toward various combines this spring. While he is considered undersized by some, his ability to make an impact on special teams will be a huge plus.
But what if football doesn’t work out?
Here’s where we can have some fun and look inside the crystal ball.
Some think a solid backup plan is a career in professional wrestling or maybe even a coaching job. There’s no doubt that Daniel would be a tremendous asset to the UK football program as a special teams coach or as a defensive coach working with linebackers and defensive schemes.
With a larger-than-life personality, Kash would also be a great fit as a member of the media, doing pre-game analysis or even better, working as a sideline reporter on game day. If nothing else, the Kash Daniel Podcast needs to become a reality next season.
What about returning home?
Don’t be surprised if Daniel ends up in a more low key career back home in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Who wouldn’t want to spend a day with Kash Daniel as a hunting and fishing guide at Kash Daniel Outdoors. Just listening to football stories would be enough to grab some camo and head for the duck blind.
Whatever path Daniel chooses, you can bet he’ll have the same love and support from a Big Blue Nation that cheered his every move in Kentucky blue.
Thanks for the memories, Kash.