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Mister “Relatable”

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Just a few hours after the Detroit Lions made Kentucky defensive lineman Josh Paschal the 46th overall pick in the National Football League draft, he was on a Zoom call with media members explaining why he thought he could be an immediate impact player this season.

“Versatility is one of the biggest keys to my game,” said Paschal. “I can move across the front (to different positions). I am not sure what they (Detroit coaches) will have me play but whatever it is, I will give my all and I think I can pick up what I need to at different positions.”

He started 37 games at UK and played in 52 games. He finished with 139 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 13.5 quarterback sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and three blocked shots. His 37 tackles for loss is tied for third in UK history.

Paschal had a huge 2021 season with 53 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and eight quarterback hurries. Those numbers obviously impressed the Lions who took Paschal higher than he had been projected to go in the draft.

He missed the Senior Bowl because he wanted to “heal up” for the NFL combine where Detroit coaches liked what they said.

“I am all good now. One hundred percent,” Paschal said. “I had interviews (with Detroit) at the combine. I met all of them (team officials, coaches). We watched film and talked about ball and life. Instantly, I knew it would be a great fit.”

It’s hard to imagine Paschal not being a “great fit” with any NFL team. He was a three-year team captain at Kentucky. He’s the only player ever to earn that honor.

“I was blessed to be around a lot of great leaders,” Paschal said. “I am a guy who can change locker rooms. My goal is to learn from the veterans there but to step into a leadership role as well.”

How can he change a locker room, especially in the NFL?

“I am a relatable guy. I love to build relationships with my teammates. I love to lead different guys in different ways,” Paschal said. “I believe every person you meet you need a bond with. Some guys respond best when you call them out. Some respond best when you pull them aside. I will take it all in this first year and learn from the veterans.”

One of those veterans is offensive lineman Logan Stenberg, a former UK teammate who the Lions picked in the fourth round in 2020.

“He has told me nothing but great things about Detroit,” Paschal said.

The same could be said about what everyone says about Paschal,  a player who never made excuses and played through injury/illness.

He was diagnosed with malignant melanoma that appeared on the bottom of his foot just before training camp was to open in July of 2018. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops made the announcement at UK’s Media Day — the same time he also revealed offensive line coach John Schlarman had cancer.

Paschal had  three surgeries and monthly immunotherapy treatments for over a year but got to play in the final three games of UK’s historic 10-win season in 2018. Paschal used his diagnosis as a way to share how battling cancer made him a stronger person and spoke to various church and community groups. His story was often featured on national TV.

“I learned a lot throughout the whole time. I learned not to take life for granted. Take every day and moment as a blessing whether you are going on the practice field or just waking up in the morning,” Paschal said. “I am blessed to be where I am now and beyond blessed to be a Lion.”

He also made it clear after the draft that he was a football-lifer.

“I want to play this sport as long as I can,” Paschal said. “I want to be around coaching it, too. This is what I love.”

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as, and Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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