Josh Paschal returned to the football field in 2019. He was on the field, just not all the way back. Something still was not completely right.
The UK outside linebacker missed almost the entire 2018 season. In the year away from football he underwent monthly immunotherapy treatments and had multiple surgeries to remove melanoma from the bottom of his foot. Paschal successfully conquered cancer, but he was not the same as soon as he returned to the football field.
Playing “Jack” in UK’s 3-4 defense, the outside linebacker position requires agility and the ability to operate in space. Upon his return, he was a step slow. His healing foot wasn’t quite the same. With a little persistence through the early half of the season, Paschal returned to form.
“I feel like last season, it was really just getting back in the game. Towards the end of the season I just started feeling like myself, getting back to being that football player that I hoped to be,” Paschal said earlier this week.
By season’s end Paschal recorded 34 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and 9.5 tackles for loss, finishing just outside of the top ten in the SEC.
No. 4 will be starting his redshirt junior season at a different position, defensive end. Instead of dropping into pass coverage from time to time, this year Paschal’s undivided attention will be on winning in the trenches. Even after just a few practices in the spring, he could tell a noticeable difference in his play by starting the down with his hand in the dirt.
“It’s something that I’m looking forward to. Throughout that small time we had in the spring, I loved it. I was twitchy. I felt fast. I felt like I could make an impact on the D-line on the edge,” said Paschal.
At times Paschal may have been a step slow at outside linebacker. By moving inside to defensive end, he should be a step faster than most that play his position. Elsewhere on Anwar Stewart’s defensive line there are plenty of versatile weapons.
“Just to know that Q (Bohanna) is coming back, Boogie (Watson) is coming back, J-Dub (Jordan Wright) is coming back, and then on the other side whoever ends up getting that spot — whether it’s Phil (Hoskins) or Looney or who ever — I know that there’s experience. I feel like that we can do some damage this year. We’re just going to have to continue to work and continue to grow as a defensive line, as a front. It should be something special.”
Excited to return to voluntary workouts this week, Paschal can’t wait to show the world what he’s been working on this offseason, no matter how many fans can be in the stands this fall.
“Even if it’s half (capacity), I would love that,” he said. “Just to be able to go out there with all that’s gone on the past couple of months, I feel like we’ll all be blessed just to even be able to have a football season. I’m excited for that and I’m excited for whatever we decide to do. “