Josh Paschal has been the heart and soul for the Kentucky Wildcats defense the past two seasons and will now get his shot at the next level after getting picked in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, going 46th overall. He was selected just three picks after Wan’Dale Robinson went 43rd to the New York Giants.
From his journey as a cancer survivor to his high motor and versatility on the field, Paschal is a beloved member of the Big Blue Nation as the only three-team full-season team captain in school history.
He was also forever be remembered for blocking a Florida field goal attempt in the third quarter that landed in the hands of freshman linebacker Trevin Wallace, who then ran for a 76-yard touchdown to lift the Wildcats to a 20-13 win over the Gators at Kroger Field. The win over Florida was the first at home since 1986 and the crowd stormed the field at Kroger Stadium in celebration.
In the win over Florida, the Maryland native finished with seven tackles and dominated the line of scrimmage to the point that head coach Mark Stoops was in awe of Paschal’s play during postgame comments.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anybody play better than Josh Paschal did Saturday,” said Stoops. “He was incredible.”
For his career, Paschal played in 52 games with 37 starts, totaled 139 career tackles, and had 37.0 tackles for loss, which ranks third in school history. He also finished with 13.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and three blocked kicks on his way to earning All-SEC honors.
As a senior last season, Paschal ranked fourth in the SEC and 20th nationally in tackles for loss (15.5) and was tabbed as “The most underappreciated defensive player in the SEC” as described by SEC Network analyst Gene Chizik.
In July of 2018, Paschal was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and took a redshirt season as a sophomore after going through three surgeries, followed by ongoing monthly immunotherapy treatments. He ultimately bounced back to become one of the SEC’s top defensive player as his draft stock continued to rise in his final two seasons.
Per NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein, Paschal was projected as a third-round pick, so seeing him go in the top 50 was a wonderful surprise.
“Fully grown defender with the play strength and versatility to contribute in odd or even fronts. Paschal’s urgent, full-tilt demeanor helps him control his fair share of engagements, but it also leads to occasional lapses in footwork and balance. He’s like a block of granite at the point of attack with low pads and a heavy anchor. He has the twitch to see-and-shed against single blocks and the range to make a tackle a gap away. His face-up rush style lacks elusiveness and will see limited success off the edge, but his snap quickness fits perfectly as an interior rusher in sub-packages. Paschal might never be a star, but he’s a good future starter with winning character that coaches and fans will grow to love.”
During UK’s recent Pro Day, Paschal said that playing for defensive coordinator Brad White, a former NFL coach with the Indianapolis Colts, had prepared him well for the NFL.
Under White, the 6-foot-3, 278-pounder, showed his versatility by playing both outside linebacker and defensive end during his time in Lexington and developed leadership skills that could be a game-changer for his new team.
“Whatever team drafts me, they’re going to get a leader. That’s what I do,” said Pascal in late March. “I can change locker rooms and I will change locker rooms. I’m going to go out there and compete and work my butt off each and every day.”
One thing is for sure - Paschal will quickly become a fan favorite with the Lions and will provide leadership, both on and off the field.
Best of luck to Josh as his NFL dreams are now being realized!