On Friday morning, Mark Stoops sucked the air out of the room with one quote to start his Media Day press conference.
“As I reported last week about Josh Paschal and the skin lesions he had removed from the bottom of his right foot, well, I’m sorry to say that those came back as malignant melanoma,” he said. “So since those results came back, Josh had another procedure this past Wednesday and we’re waiting for those results to come back.
Stoops was teary-eyed and choked up. Media members were speechless. The Big Blue Nation was devastated immediately upon hearing the news on social media.
When it came time for the players to address the situation on the field at Media Day, they were heartbroken. For an individual so young with such a big heart, it just shattered the locker room.
“Very sad moment when I heard the news,” senior safety Mike Edwards said. “He’s one of the most humble and great guys on the team. We all really love him. So when we heard that news, it was pretty sad for me and the whole team. We’re going to keep him in our prayers, and hopefully he does well.”
For senior linebacker Josh Allen, he admits he cried when he heard the news, but immediately turned it into a teaching moment for the true sophomore talent.
“I actually cried. When he told me, I cried a little bit,” Allen said. “I never want that to happen to anybody, especially someone like that who doesn’t do anything wrong. I told him, “Don’t look at this as a disadvantage, look at it as an advantage. Like okay, you’re hurt. What are you going to do about it?” I told him that he better be the smartest guy in the film room when he comes back. He’s taken that to heart. You have to keep going, you can’t be a couch potato. You’ve gotta do something. I’m hurt, but we’ve got guys that need to step up in his role while he’s out.”
Quarterback Gunnar Hoak said the team now has a new motto with Paschal out: play every down like it’s their last.
“Yeah, it’s tough, obviously. It’s definitely a hard moment for our team and for the coaches. Our motto now is to go out and live every play like it’s your last because you never know what’s going to happen. We’re blessed to be out here. It hurts, but we’ve gotta get through it. We’ll pray for him and go out and play like it’s our last play,” he said.
What was expected to be a breakout season for Paschal will now be a fight for his life. Melanoma is considered the most dangerous type of skin cancer, with an estimated 9,320 people expected to die from the disease in the U.S. in 2018, per SkinCancer.org. Out of 178,560 cases expected to be diagnosed this year, that comes out to about a 95-percent survival rate. The odds are in his favor, and Stoops said the doctors caught it early, but you just never know with cancer.
Send your prayers Paschal’s way, BBN. One of our own is hurting.