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UK football announces team captains for 2021 season

Josh Paschal becomes the first three-time captain in school history.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has announced who will serve as team captains for the 2021 college football season.

Earning this distinction will be returning captains Josh Paschal, Josh Ali, Yusuf Corker, and DeAndre Square, as well as first-time captains Luke Fortner, Marquan McCall, Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Paschal becomes the first player in school history to be elected a team captain in three-straight seasons.

Here is what you need to know about each captain via UK Athletics.

Josh Paschal, Senior, DE

Paschal, a 6-3, 275-pounder from Prince George’s County, Maryland, moved from linebacker to defensive end prior to the 2020 season and immediately became a stalwart on the line. He was named fourth-team All-SEC by Phil Steele’s Football Magazine and All-SEC Honorable Mention by Pro Football Focus in 2020 after totaling 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry and one interception in 11 games. As a leader on and off the field, Paschal has been elected team captain twice (2019 and 2020) and has been UK football’s representative for the NCAA’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the SEC Leadership Council the past two seasons. He also was named a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award last season and was a SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll member.

This season, his accolades include being named a preseason second-team All-SEC choice by Athlon Sports and the media, and earning a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team. He’s also on the watch list for the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Paschal graduated in May of 2021 with a degree in family science and a minor in health promotion and is currently working on a second degree in communication.

Josh Ali, Senior, WR

Ali, a 6-0, 190-pound wide receiver and punt returner from Hollywood, Florida, is a four-year letter winner taking advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. He has played in 45 career games, starting 24 in a row. As a specialist, Ali has been UK’s top punt returner the last two seasons, combining for 20 punt returns for 150 yards.

Ali graduated in May with a degree in community and leadership development and is currently working on second degree in communication.

Ali was also elected a team captain in 2020.

Yusuf Corker, Senior, DB

Corker, a 6-0, 204-pounder from McDonough, Georgia, has played in 37 career games with 24 straight starting nods at safety. As a junior in 2020, he finished second on the team in tackles (77) behind NFL first-round draft pick Jamin Davis. He also added 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

He earned preseason third-team All-SEC honors by the media and Athlon Sports and got a preseason second-team nod by Phil Steele. Corker also is a nominee for the Lott IMPACT Trophy which is presented annually to the college football defensive IMPACT player of the year.

Off the field, Corker was named to the Dean’s List and the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll in 2020. He graduated in May with a degree in economics and is currently working on a second degree in communication.

Corker was also elected a team captain in 2020.

Luke Fortner, Senior, OL

Fortner, a four-year letter winner from Sylvania, Ohio, returns to the “Big Blue Wall” after taking advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. He enters the 2021 season having seen action in 42 career games with 23 consecutive starts at right guard. In 2020, he graded out at 82.9 percent in 10 games played with 26 knockdowns and 146 blocks at the point of attack.

The 6-6, 297-pounder graduated in December of 2019 with a degree in mechanical engineering and is currently finishing his master’s degree in mechanical engineering with plans to graduate in December. On top of that, Fortner is also working on his master’s degree in business administration at UK’s prestigious Gatton College of Business and Economics. He is on track to graduate with his MBA in May of 2022. He was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team and earned preseason third-team All-SEC honors by the league’s media and Athlon Sports.

Will Levis, Junior, QB

Levis, a 6-foot-3, 232-pounder who transferred from Penn State has immediately earned the trust of his teammates and coaching staff. He was announced as the starter on August 15, one day following the first scrimmage. In 15 career games at Penn State, Levis completed 61-of-102 passes (59.8) for 644 yards and three scores, with just two interceptions. Often used as a running quarterback, he also had 133 carries for 473 yards and six touchdowns. His 473 career rushing yards rank 10th all-time by a Penn State quarterback.

Marquan McCall, Senior, NG

McCall, 6-3, 357-pound from Detroit, has played in 31 games in his career, including 10 last season at nose guard. He earned starting assignments vs. Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina and went on to total 22 tackles, a tackle for loss, a fumble recovery and a half-sack in his junior season.

Chris Rodriguez Jr., Junior, RB

Rodriguez, a 5-11, 224-pounder from McDonough, Georgia, led the Cats in rushing in 2020 with 785 yards and 11 touchdowns despite missing two games due to COVID-19 protocols. The power back had four 100-yard rushing games, including three of the final four games for which he was available, and was nearly impossible to bring down. He totaled 105 consecutive carries without being tackled behind the line of scrimmage and gained positive yardage on 116 of his 119 total attempts. He delivered a career-best 149 yards vs. Vanderbilt on Nov. 14 and led the SEC in yards per attempt at 6.6. Overall, he ranked fifth in the SEC in rushing yards per game (87.2), earning him first-team All-SEC accolades by Pro Football Focus and fourth-team All-SEC honors from Phil Steele. Rodriguez currently has 1,361 career rushing yards, good for 27th place in school history.

He has been compiling an extensive list of preseason honors this season, including being named to both the Maxwell Trophy Watch List (nation’s most outstanding player) and the Doak Walker Award Watch List (nation’s top running back). He’s also been named preseason second-team All-SEC by Athlon Sports and the media, preseason third-team All-SEC by Phil Steele and preseason All-America honorable mention by Pro Football Focus.

DeAndre Square, Senior, LB

Square, a 6-1, 221-pound inside linebacker also from Detroit, has played in 36 career games with 22 starting assignments, including 10 starts as a junior last season. The team captain in 2020 was third on the team in total tackles with 60, second on the team with four quarterback hurries and also charted 2.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

Square was also elected a team captain in 2020.