By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky defensive lineman Josh Paschal could make a big impact on the football field for coach Mark Stoops’ team this season. However, he’s already making an impact off the field.
Recently he shared his story and testimony at Versailles Baptist Church and very little of the talk had to do with football.
“He didn’t talk much football. He mentioned his teammates and some stuff but his talk was definitely more centered on his relationship with Christ. He talked about FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and what it has meant to him,” said Dr. Michael Cabell, senior pastor at Versailles Baptist.
Cabell has been friends with Aaron Hogue, central Kentucky FCA area director, since college. He knew about some of Paschal’s story through Hogue.
Paschal became a Christian April 29, 2018, and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops attended his baptism. Paschal had a solid freshman season as a backup linebacker but had been moved to the defensive line in spring practice to get him on the field more last season.
I was at a Mercer County youth football camp in July when he talked about how eager he was to help UK and how optimistic he was about the season. A few weeks later he was diagnosed with skin cancer at about the same time offensive line coach John Schlarman started his cancer treatment.
“His story was so impressive,” Cabell said. “What really stuck out to me was that he’s been a Christian for just a year yet he was so articulate about his faith. We had a lot of young folks at the service who I hope were really impressed but what he said.
“Josh said until he became a Christian his identity was found in football and the SEC. Now he says his chief identity is being a Christian. We had a bunch of 10 to 12 year olds listening and I hope they listened to his message that there are greater things in life than football.”
Cabell says he often sees people of all ages find their faith after being hit with adversity like Paschal’s cancer diagnosis. However, the senior minister noted that Paschal made his confession of faith four months before his cancer diagnosis.
“He shared how his faith really helped him with his cancer struggle,” Cabell said. “I think it really helped so many for him to share that during our church service. I think it did surprise some folks with what he said. Any time we see an athlete perform at a high level who became a Christian … it made for powerful testimony. You don’t see that much, especially from a top of the world type guy like Josh.
“To use his platform as a football player to share his faith is powerful. He said football is still important to him but since he became a Christian it is no longer the most important thing in his life.”