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Kentucky Defensive End Josh Paschal Inspires Amid Cancer Diagnosis

At six foot three and nearly three hundred pounds of solid muscle, Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal strikes fear in the hearts of opposing teams. A warrior on the field, this future NFL star is known by his teammates and coaches as someone with the highest integrity.

“He’s one of those players that you only get so many in your coaching career,” says Kentucky Defensive Coordinator, Brad White. “That it’s not just that he’s a really talented athlete, but that he’s an incredible human being and an incredible young man.”

Josh’s dreams of playing in the NFL began at the age of five. “Even when I was little I would go outside, get the kids in the neighborhood, and we'll have a big game right in the middle of the field. I would act like I was an NFL player. I had my jersey on when we were outside playing and when I would score I would celebrate like the pros do.”

Though his parents raised him in a Christian home, Josh didn’t commit to becoming a Christian.

“To me it was just something you do every Sunday,” Paschal said. “It didn’t have that deeper meaning to me.”

That all changed in 2018 during his sophomore season while attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event.  

“He stayed afterwards and in his humble quiet and confident self, he said, ‘I would love to talk to you tonight about giving my life to Christ,’” said FCA Team Chaplain, Aaron Hogue.

“I felt joyful," Paschal said. “I saw what it looked like to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, not just pray to him when times get hard or anything like that but to have a full on relationship with him to trust him and to let him guide your life.”

Times got hard quickly for Josh. Just four months after his profession of faith, the team trainer suggested he get a spot on his foot checked out by a doctor. The biopsy revealed the spot was a malignant melanoma. Cancer. Josh’s response wasn’t concern for himself, but for his family and his teammates.

“Seeing how they reacted to it, I really wanted to stay strong in order to keep them strong as well, for them to know that I had it and I was going to fight it and we were going to be okay”, Paschal said.

Kentucky head coach, Mark Stoops, says that Josh’s commitment to follow Jesus just a few months before his diagnosis became his strength. “That has a lot to do with his faith and his relationship with Christ and how far he’s come and he’s just a confident and a matter-of-fact person," Stoops said.

And instead of questioning God’s goodness, Josh trusted more fully in God.

Paschal said, “It was a time where I knew I had my faith, I knew who I was living for and why I'm here and so I leaned on the Lord and I trusted in Him and no matter the outcome I knew it was in His plan and that's how I got through it.”

Still, the cancer required not one, but three surgeries. Josh’s recovery was difficult. He even had to learn to walk again. His dedication to rehab and getting back on the field inspired his teammates and coaches.

“He was a sort of beacon of strength for our team,” said Coach Brad White. “Whether he could be on the field or not you know in that time he was struggling and was diagnosed, whenever he showed up he had a smile on his face. He was encouraging his teammates and everybody drew strength from that.”

Like a true warrior, just four months after surgery, Josh worked his way back onto the field and into the starting lineup. Cancer free.

Paschal said, “It just didn’t look like it was possible, but you know, through Christ all things are possible and I believe that.”

“It means a whole lot more when you know what he’s been through,” said Hogue. “And he’s walked through his cancer and surviving, his perseverance, and his attitude toward life. He is a man that knows that he has been blessed with grace and he just gives grace to others.”

“I believe that He used me during this time to use my platform also for young men like me who haven't trusted in the Lord yet and they're thinking about it and they're on that edge and they see this video and they're like ‘Wow, this is something I really want to learn more about,’" said Paschal. "Jesus is the King, the one true King and He's loving, He's caring, and He's a Father. He's our Heavenly Father. He's always here, He's always in the room with you and that's something I believe that I would never be alone because I have the Lord and He's everywhere around me, next to me in everything that I do.”

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