Kash Daniel has enjoyed one of the most successful four years in Kentucky football history. During his career, the Cats went 32-20 with Citrus and Belk Bowl victories. Kash has also been apart of some of the best defenses in school history, as well, to help secure that record. However, Kash has been very open about the lows he faced during his final season in the blue and white.
We all know Kash as the kid from the 606, with the gift of gab and a hard-hitting mentality, but in this interview, we see a different side to the Pride of Paintsville.
On KSR earlier this year, he revealed he battled depression during his senior year, but dove deeper into it with this interview.
“I’ve dealt with depression ever since I was a kid,” Daniel told the SDS Podcast. “I grew up in a high poverty area in Eastern Kentucky. We didn’t have a lot to be proud of, except our last name and what we did on the field every Friday night.” Kash had mentioned dealing with that for years, but the Kyle Trask ankle twist really brought it to the forefront. That, and the pressure to live up to the hype.
“When (the Kyle Trask play) happened, it kind of triggered it because I set such a high standard for myself. After we won the Citrus Bowl and looking at the season coming up– I was a junior captain…I was like ‘damn, dude, you’ve got to be like Josh Allen now to continue to be the player they’re hyping your ass up to be.’ It was kind of hard to live up to that. I was trying to get everything perfect.”
Fresh off a five-week Michael Jordan craze, Kash referenced the Last Dance and drew comparisons to himself and his Airness. Not in the sense of the way they played, but the way they took every single thing personally, and that really took a toll on Daniel’s mental health.
“I just had this expectation going into camp that we had to be the best damn defense in the nation…I took that personal. Just like everything else on the field I made it personal. I think that’s the only reason I was able to play at this level. It’s because I had the mentality I was going to make it personal.”
That personal relationship Kash had with the game only allowed the pressure to continue to mount in the weeks leading up to the season.
“We had a scrimmage one time where all the defensive coaches and Coach Stoops were disappointed in us and I took that s**t personal. I almost freaked out one day in camp out of nowhere because I was obsessed with being the best defense and it was all on me. They built this hype around me and I built it around myself the way I portray myself in the media and on social media. So now I was like ‘MF’er you better back this s**t up.”
Kentucky finally gets to week one against Toldeo. Kentucky holds the Rockets to 24 points in the victory, and Kash ends the day with four tackles. In Kash’s opinion, the defense did just fine, but he wasn’t satisfied with his personal performance. His performance ate at him so much he sat on the phone with Coach Summerall for two hours, freaking out about the Florida game, not even the upcoming game against Eastern Michigan.
Week two rolls around and the Kentucky defense holds Eastern Michigan to just 17 points in a win. Kash finished with five tackles and even an interception, but he still found himself anxious about not playing well enough.
Now, it’s Florida week, and we all know what happens next; the infamous ankle twist.
Maybe I'm just a big ol homer, but the Skycam angle makes it pretty clear to my eyes that @TateCasey84 was correct and @UKFootball's #56 Kash Daniels was working @GatorsFB's Kyle Trask's ankle – released it when he realized the ref was on top of them pic.twitter.com/06asJVQYi5
— libgator (@lib_gator) September 15, 2019
“It was just dumb,” Daniel said. “At this point I own it, there’s nothing I can do. Unfortunately, when people look back at my career that’s probably one of the first things they will think of. That’s something I’ve got to endure and something that took me a while to own.” Daniel explained that it bothered him so much because he prided himself on not being that kind of player, and that it just happened in the heat of the moment and there was no other excuse for it.
He tried to play it off for a few days, but it really hit him what he had done while in a hotel room ahead of the game against Mississippi State.
“I was watching that (Florida and Tennessee) game and they closed up on his mom and I was just like ‘damn, man’ and it hit me…we all got moms out there who just want to watch us play, and they’re scared to death already that we’re playing this game, and the last thing that needs to happen is her son to get hurt by some idiot that didn’t do it within the play. I’ve regretted it and I should’ve apologized earlier.”
Kash went on to say how much his mental health took a toll from that pressure, the Trask play, and on top of all that, he lost his grandfather in October.
Kash’s grandfather was someone who came to almost every single one of his games and meant the world to Kash. He felt trapped that he couldn’t get on social media due to the hate he was getting on there and it took a lot out of him.
With the world bearing down on Daniel, he was able to reach the Belk Bowl where he dedicated his final collegiate victory to his late grandfather.
“I wrote (“this is for you, Grandad”) on my cleats. I went out there, had eight tackles, and felt like myself again. Playing free, playing with my brothers.”
Hearing Kash open up about his depression after his final season has been powerful to listen to on every platform he has discussed it on, but what I found to be an important takeaway from this interview was how he was able to cope with the things that were weighing him down.
In order to cope with all of the lows he had experienced throughout the season, Kash explained that sometimes he just had to go outdoors to get his mind off everything. Whether it’s taking a walk with his dog, fishing, or hunting, he just wanted to be active. But, he had more advice for those who are experiencing the same sort of things.
“It’s cool to talk to people, man,” Kash explained. “For me, it was hard to just start talking to someone, and that’s a lot of people’s problems because they’re afraid they’ll be perceived as a mental midget or something like that…You’ve got to get over that. I know it’s easier said than done, but you would be surprised how many people would actually sit down and listen. Maybe they could give you advice or maybe they’re just someone to vent to, but if you keep it bottled up you’ll be like a shook-up pop can…One day you’ll pop the top and you’ll explode. It’s always good to talk to somebody.”
Kash went onto emphasize the need for a mental health specialist at every program across the country. “There needs to be time taken to build the brain, just like we build our biceps with the strength coaches in the weight room. There needs to be a way to heal our minds, just like trainers heal our nicks and bruises…there needs to be a lot of reinforcement with mental health especially in college athletics because you’re dealing with a lot of young people who come from different backgrounds or are far away from home for the first time, or they’ve lost someone for the first time and they don’t know how to deal with that and they can’t go home…people deal with a lot of stuff people don’t understand.”
So, what’s next for Kash Daniel now that he didn’t get drafted or sign an undrafted free agent deal? Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear Kash will get to fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL right now. Daniel revealed that teams red-flagged his medical records and went through the laundry list of injuries that not even people outside of the team knew about. Those injuries include a broken hand, a midseason shoulder surgery, an offseason shoulder surgery, an undisclosed procedure, and an epidural shot in his spine. But, he has aspirations of combining outdoors and college athletics which could benefit the mental health of many athletes across the country.
“I want to start my own show on youtube, taking premier college athletes, coaches, analysts and introduce them to the outdoors, or even if they’re avid outdoorsmen. Just take them out and enjoy it, because ultimately I believe anytime I’ve taken someone to the outdoors they’ve always been their true selves…I’d like to get involved with a lot of college athletes to show them that’s there’s a lot of ways you can enjoy the outdoors with the stress of the season.”
I’ve got to say, that seems like something that would work and screams SEC Network. Kash believes the UK football program put him in the position to succeed in that or anything post-football.
This was a really powerful listen, and if you’d like to hear more from the interview, you can check it out here.