Over the past few years, Kentucky Football has faced more than its fair share of adversity. From John Schlarman and Josh Paschal’s battles with cancer, the tragic death of Marco Shemwell, and now, Chris Oats’ recovery from a serious medical issue, this Kentucky team has developed a resilience from what happens off the football field that continues to drive its success on it. That’s why Paschal felt the need to step forward and address his teammates and coaches at halftime of Saturday’s game vs. Mississippi State after being injured in the second quarter.
“He’s an amazing individual,” Stoops said of the junior defensive end, who is fully recovered from a malignant melanoma on the bottom of his foot. “I don’t make too much of it and I don’t need you all to dig into it, but it’s just his leadership and the way he responded at halftime. He injured his knee. He was hurt, unsure whether he could play, unsure how significant that injury is and he’s a guy that wanted to speak at halftime with me and address the team and lead. He’s a courageous young man. He’s a leader. He’s passionate about the way he plays and it effects other people.
“He’s a remarkable young man and it is something, especially you think about what he’s been through. You think about what Coach Schlarman is going through and I can tell you, without getting into details, that it’s just amazing and inspiration what John is doing and it’s toughened him…Josh has been through some tough situations and to see him come out the other side is also inspirational.”
Paschal didn’t play in the second half and is now day-to-day, but Stoops expects him to be available vs. Tennessee, which is a good thing because he is Kentucky’s leader on defense. I wasn’t in the locker room Saturday, but I have a feeling one of the reasons he wanted to speak was to encourage his teammates to win for Oats, who returned home this weekend from a physical rehab facility following a medical emergency in May. Fittingly, Kentucky won by 22 points, Oats’ jersey number, and Jamin Davis, who donned his jersey, got an interception just before halftime. On Sunday, Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow, and Jon Sumrall visited Oats and delivered the game ball.
So overjoyed @Christopheroats got to return home this weekend.
— Mark Stoops (@UKCoachStoops) October 11, 2020
In his press conference today, Stoops opened up about the visit, which he said provided some much-needed perspective.
“To go up and see Chris yesterday and deliver that game ball to him and see what Chris is going through. We don’t take enough time to be grateful for what we have and our team needs to understand that. Things can change in a moment and we have enough situations on our team where we can just look right at those examples and realize how fortunate we are and we need to make the most of every opportunity that we have and to see Chris like that, it was good to see him. He is strong. He’s doing good but it’s a tough, long road to recovery that he has.”
The Oats family started a GoFundMe to assist with his recovery. So far, they have raised $31,000 of their $50,000 goal. For more details and to donate, click here. #22Strong