Sophomore defensive end Josh Paschal returned to the field in a meaningful way this Saturday.
The edge rusher who was supposed to complement Josh Allen this season had his plans sidelined by a diagnosis of a malignant melanoma on the bottom of his foot over the summer.
Paschal has since been receiving treatment, including surgery and immunotherapy treatments and spent the last several months recovering. As recently as a few months ago Paschal was still using a scooter to get around, not even able to put weight on his foot.
“That was the highlight of my year. Seeing JP out there doing his thing, it was unbelievable,” said linebacker Kash Daniel after the win. “That kid man he’s been through so much, you guys know the big picture, but you don’t know the little things, the mental part that he had to deal with and he was always so positive about coming back. There was never a negative day that he had. The kid always has a great attitude and if that happened to me, I would have the worst attitude ever—like ever. I’m in an attitude right now over a game imagine if I had that. Josh is an unbelievable guy. I’m honored to be his teammate and I can’t wait to see him play in two more games with us this year.”
Because the immunotherapy treatments don’t have side effects as extreme as chemotherapy, Paschal has been able to continue working out and has remained hopeful that he would be able to take the field in a game at some point this season. And because the NCAA changed the redshirt rule this year, Paschal won’t have to burn his redshirt and will be able to keep all his eligibility.
“It felt good just to wipe some dust off finally,” Pachal said after the game. “I loved it. Just to know everybody is supporting me and knows what I’ve been through. They’ve been supporting me the whole time and lifting my spirits up when I’m feeling down. It felt great.”
“I always wanted to work as hard as I can,” Paschal said. “I know it may have not seemed like I was ready to play but I just knew I couldn’t follow my plan, I had to follow God’s plan for me. You never know what God’s plan is so you have to keep going harder and harder every day and just do the things necessary to get to this point.”
Stoops admitted in his postgame comments that the coaching staff had planned to bring Paschal in for the Georgia game, but that he suffered a setback unrelated to the melanoma.
“I don’t know what he just said to you now, but he was trying to come back a few weeks ago and just the foot was bothering him and in different, from where he had the surgery. And that really disappointed him because he was ready to go a few weeks ago, trying to get back for the Georgia game, I want to say, and just wasn’t ready. And we certainly wouldn’t put him out there until he’s ready to go.”
The Kentucky football team has rallied around Paschal and offensive line coach John Schlarman, also battling cancer, this season. Every player has JP and JS decals on their helmets and players have been wearing bracelets to honor both Wildcats. The team has been breaking huddles with “JP on three!” all season. Paschal has been blown away by the support of his team, and he credits that support, along with his faith, for keeping him strong throughout his recovery.
It’s good to see Paschal back out on the field. His recovery is ongoing and he will continue to receive treatments through next August. If everything goes well he should be declared cancer free by that point. I think all of Big Blue Nation will join me in continuing to wish Josh Paschal the best in his recovery.
You can watch Paschal’s postgame interview here, courtesy of the Courier-Journal: