Maybe you think of adorable bunnies or warm blankets when you hear the word "soft."
But the word still makes Josh Forrest cringe.
It became the word of choice to describe Kentucky's middle linebacker the past couple of seasons.
"Soft," he sighed. "Everything I did was soft. 'This is soft. That's soft.'"
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The former all-state wide receiver at Paducah Tilghman had become accustomed to high school coaches praising him for his skills and speed.
Then came the big position switch. He was redshirted his freshman season at Kentucky and was moved from offense to defense. And just when he had gotten a little bit comfortable at weakside linebacker, the coaches moved him to middle linebacker two games before the 2013 spring game.
"I kept thinking it was never going to change," he said of position switching.
Once he settled in at middle linebacker playing behind Avery Williamson, Forrest still never felt like he had it right.
"Every technique, every play that I did, it felt like they were just hounding me," Forrest said.
It was a tough transition to a spot that's difficult to just pick up and play. There are nuances, things that take hundreds of repetitions to understand fully.
"With Josh, there was the learning curve of playing on the other side of the ball on top of teaching him the new position," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "It was a whole different perspective of the game. So I had to teach him that and then from there we had to go over, just start from day one, like he was a freshman linebacker."
Forrest worried and wondered each time he went on the field if he was going to make the right play.
"I felt like I'm just never going to make them happy; I felt like maybe I wasn't his guy," Forrest said of head coach Mark Stoops. "I thought about a lot of stuff, but I'm not a quitter. I just had to keep on pushing through it."
That's what Forrest did in his junior year, his first as a full-time starter, amassing a team-best 110 tackles, including five games with double-digit takedowns. He added eight tackles for a loss and one sack.
He still drew the ire of his coaches a little bit. He was great in pass defense, but still struggling to stop the run, especially early in the season.
During his struggles, especially that first season at middle linebacker, Forrest would call his mom to vent. He'd walk into Eliot's office and ask for help. He spent more time lifting — gaining as much as 20 pounds in the offseason to get up to 255 before losing a little more because he felt like he lost explosiveness at the higher weight.
By the end of practices this past April, Forrest was starting to own the position. In run defense, it's not always about how big he is, but about seeing plays before they fully develop.
"The main thing is my eyes have become where my power is," he said. "What I see is where my power is. So it's just seeing it and seeing it so many times. So now I can get to where I need to be at and be more physical."
Soft isn't the word that comes to mind when coaches discuss Forrest now. It's leader.
With so many new linebackers to get game ready in fall camp, Eliot frequently looks up and sees Forrest giving tips to younger players, reminding them of things they might have missed.
"I see him coaching the freshmen and I'm like, 'Wow. I didn't even know you knew that,'" Eliot said smiling. "It's been encouraging."
Even his head coach, whom Forrest wondered if he'd ever be able to please, has had almost exclusively good things to say about his senior middle linebacker.
In a meeting the night before fall camp started, Stoops brought up Forrest to the entire team. And it wasn't because of something Forrest had messed up, but because of how far he had come.
"My point was that I can be very hard on guys, but you have to earn our trust and respect," Stoops said. "And that I'm proud of him, because I feel like he's earned our respect and our trust. That's not going to be given to you in this program, and he's done that with his actions."
Forrest's position shuffle has stopped at middle linebacker.
It finally feels like home, Forrest said, like a soft place to land.
"Josh is a linebacker now," Eliot said. "I didn't necessarily feel like that at the beginning of the year last year. I felt like he was in transition, but I feel like he's a linebacker now."