Small town kid, big time stage: Kash Daniel’s Kentucky football career


Kash Daniels attempts to sack the quarterback during the game against Mississippi State on Saturday, September 22, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

For an Eastern Kentucky kid from a town with a population of less than 5,000, UK junior inside linebacker Kash Daniel is doing nothing short of making a name for himself on the turf.

As a high-schooler, Daniel was named Kentucky’s Mr. Football and Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year while attending Paintsville High, named a US Army All-American and named first-team all-state by the Courier-Journal and the Associated Press. He was recruited by several schools and chose to be a Wildcat over Michigan, Louisville, Marshall, Ohio, Purdue, South Carolina and Illinois. According to UK Athletics, Daniel says he chose to play at Kentucky because he wanted to play for Coach Mark Stoops and play in the SEC.

Playing for Stoops and in the SEC has suited Daniel well, to say the least, especially in the 2018 season so far. In Kentucky’s season opener against Central Michigan, Daniel recorded a career-high 11 tackles, which was also the team-high that game.

In week two against Florida, a game in which the Wildcats snapped the 31-game losing streak to the Gators, Daniel recorded 11 more tackles. At 22 total tackles on the season at that point, he led the entire SEC in tackles.

The Paintsville native said he feels a sense of pride coming from the state of Kentucky.

“Making history here at this school, it means a lot to me, and it means a lot that I get to do it in front of my home state and people, especially out in Eastern Kentucky,” Daniel said.

Daniel made an impact for Kentucky in his freshman and sophomore seasons as well, but this year is extra special for him, as he is now one of the team’s starting linebackers and a captain.

He says he wasn’t really shocked at the fact that he was named a captain this year, but that he is forever thankful that his teammates think that highly of him.

“Every day I come in and my first goal is to be the best teammate I can possibly be,” Daniel said. “No matter if it’s in the locker room, on the field or off the field, you know, these dudes are my brothers. So I’ll ride and die with them. For them to think of me as a captain as a junior, you know, going forward I couldn’t be awarded something higher than that coming from my teammates.”

Kentucky’s coaching staff has been high on Daniel as well, giving him praise and showing excitement for him over the summer on Kentucky football media day.

“Kash is doing a very good job. I talked a lot about it in the spring. I was very pleased with the way he’s taken charge of the defense. He’s passionate about it. There’s no doubt about it,” Stoops said. “He’s going to give you everything he has but he has good command of the defense. He’s playing very well, playing very confident and I’m excited about Kash.”

Defensive coordinator Matt House also spoke highly of Daniel during Media Day, saying he was excited about him and that “he’s prepared well for this opportunity.”

Being in the position that Daniel has put himself in is all that he ever could’ve hoped for.

“It’s a dream come true. That’s the only way I can put it. It’s something I definitely envisioned myself doing a long time ago as a kid,” Daniel said. “At the time it was just a dream, but through hard work and pushing myself all these years it’s become a reality, and I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

Prior to Kentucky’s week four home matchup against Mississippi State, UK Athletics ran a cash-only flash sale in the 606 in which fans could drop by Paintsville’s Walmart and buy tickets for ten dollars. The event sold 3,000 tickets.

“I knew there were a lot of people there to watch me, so you could say it was a little extra motivation,” Daniel said after UK defeated the Bulldogs. “I think they sold 3,000 tickets, I mean that’s unbelievable. That shows you how much the area cares about UK athletics and how much they care about their own. I can’t thank them enough.”

Daniel said it finally hit him when he was walking to the center of the field for the captains meeting right before game one against CMU that he was a starting linebacker for Kentucky.

“I came out for captains and I was with C.J., George, Benny, Josh and all them, and just hearing the crowd and coming out, I was just like ‘yeah, this is real,’” Daniel said. “Let’s get after it.”