LEXINGTON – University of Kentucky football junior Josh Paschal has been named one of 20 semifinalists for the fourth annual Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award, which recognizes the top leaders in college football.
Compiled by a subset of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Selection Committee, the semifinalists have all demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. Three finalists will be named for the award on Dec. 16. The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on Feb. 16, 2021.
Paschal, a defensive end from Prince George’s County, Maryland, is a two-time team captain revered by his teammates for his leadership who also won his battle with cancer. 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. After undergoing three surgeries and monthly immunotherapy treatments for more than a year he was cleared to play in the final three games of UK’s historic 10-win season.
In 2019, he started in all 13 games, was elected a team captain as a redshirt-sophomore and totaled 34 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one pass breakup and a blocked kick, and led UK to its fourth straight bowl appearance. Now, nearly two years since he battled cancer, Paschal is having one of his best seasons yet in 2020. He currently has 21 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and one interception, the first of his career. He was named to preseason All-SEC teams by the league’s coaches (third-team) and Phil Steele (fourth-team). For his career he has appeared in 35 games, totaling 72.0 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 blocked kicks and an interception.
In 2020, he was elected one of three representatives for UK Football on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the SEC Football Leadership Council. He took the lead on social justice initiatives over the summer of 2020, helping lead a peaceful walk for racial and social justice in the city of Lexington, as well as a player demonstration during training camp to raise awareness for those issues. Each time was one of only a few players selected to speak on behalf of the team. He also recorded videos encouraging fellow students and fans to wear their masks during Covid-19 pandemic, #MaskUpCats.
The award, presented by Albertsons and Tom Thumb, is the first college football honor to focus primarily on a player’s leadership, both on and off the field. Leadership is a term synonymous with Jason Witten, who, in addition to becoming one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport, has served as one of football’s most prominent role models during his 16-year pro career. n