After overcoming cancer, Pashcal looks to be a leader on defense

Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Josh Paschal answers interview questions during football media day on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Sydney Carter | Staff

Erika Bonner

For a lot of student athletes, finding a balance between school, athletics and having a life outside of those things is a hard thing to juggle.

But imagine that combined with making time for doctors’ appointments and cancer treatments – that’s been UK linebacker Josh Paschal’s reality for the past year.

But that ended August 7.

“I’m excited to announce that today was my last immunotherapy treatment for melanoma!” Paschal announced on Twitter. “I have a lot of people to thank. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior for guiding me through this difficult time. My faith has only become stronger. I want to thank my family and my girlfriend for being there every step of the way and never missing a treatment. I would like to thank my family and brothers from back home for continually supporting me. I want to thank the surgeons, doctors and nurses at (UK Markey Center) for taking good care of me. Lastly, to the athletic trainers, my teammates, my coaches and everyone in the #BBN, thank you for supporting me, praying for me and getting me back to 100. I can’t wait for what God has in store for me next. See you this fall!”

Paschal has been open about his cancer journey throughout the process, which started around this time last year. In Mark Stoops’ opening statement at 2018 UK Football media day, he broke the news about Paschal having melanoma on his foot. Things do come full circle though, and at the 2019 media day at the beginning of August, the linebacker was happy to say he was almost finished with his treatments and said it was important that he remained hopeful rather than feel sorry for himself.

“I knew I had that goal that I was going to get my body the way I wanted it to be, I was going to get my foot the way I wanted it to be,” Paschal said. “Just really work on my craft and know what I wanted to work on.”

Throughout everything he was going through last year, there was still glimpses of what Paschal was capable of on the football field. He had recovered sufficiently enough to grab a starting spot that day and made a tackle on third down to force a punt, sending the crowd into a standing ovation. Paschal, who underwent four surgeries over the course of his year-long battle says he wouldn’t have the strength that he does without all of the support he has around him.

“I mean, of course there’s been trials and everything, but I have my faith and my faith has grown tremendously during this time. My teammates and their support, coaches always supporting me, my family of course, my friends from back home, just all the support I’m getting has really been getting me through everything,” Paschal said. “It’s also built relationships that I would’ve never had, you know people just that I’ve talked to at the Markey Center. Just building relationships with them, being able to go to the women’s clinic like I did a couple of days ago, and just people coming up to me and telling me about how they’re cancer survivors and how they looked up to me.”

Paschal says he expects to have a big role this year at jack linebacker.

“I want to be a captain, a leader of this defense,” Paschal said. “I want to lead this defense. So that’s something that I’m going to have to be more vocal on the defense and really just set a standard.”

This story appeared in the Aug. 27, 2019, Kernel print edition. View the paper online here: Aug. 27, 2019.