It was a somber start to Kentucky football Media Day with Mark Stoops announcing that both a player and a coach are dealing with health problems.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I open that way,” he said Friday after announcing that offensive line coach John Schlarman is battling an undisclosed illness and defensive lineman Josh Paschal recently learned that he has malignant melanoma.
“John and Josh are very strong, very good people, two of the best people we have in our program,” Stoops said. “Our team will be supportive of them as they continue to battle through these health issues.
“It’s been a tough couple days in our program leading up to the beginning of camp here, but we — again, our hearts and prayers are with Josh and John as they battle.”
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Paschal, a sophomore who is moving from outside linebacker to defensive line this season, had a minor procedure on the bottom of his right foot recently. The biopsy showed it as a malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
Paschal had a second procedure on Wednesday and is awaiting test results.
Shortly after the Media Day festivities ended and Kentucky prepared to open its fall practice schedule, Paschal sent out a tweet addressing his situation: “Appreciate all the love, support and prayers. God has a plan for me and this is just a part of it. I’ll be back!”
There was no timeline on when Paschal will return after his latest biopsy. Stoops initially projected the sophomore could be back as early as the Cats’ season opener on Sept. 1 against Central Michigan, but that’s on hold now.
Stoops noted that Paschal and his family wanted to be up front about his diagnosis so that there would be no speculation.
“They also want this to be a reminder for people to pay close attention to any changes in their skin, and if so, have those evaluated,” Stoops added.
Paschal played in 13 games last season for UK as a true freshman and finished with 17 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
There was less disclosure about Schlarman’s illness or prognosis. Stoops said he would update with more information when it becomes available for either the offensive line coach or the defensive lineman. The UK head coach asked for privacy for both.
Schlarman was present for the team pictures on Friday morning and plans to keep coaching, Stoops said.
“We will be supportive and be a family,” he said. “We will be there for them any way we can be but we’ll continue to do the work that we have to do, and they both want it that way.”
Stoops declined to speculate on how much, if any, time Schlarman would miss.
Schlarman has been on the Kentucky coaching staff since Stoops was hired in 2013. He’s a former All-Southeastern Conference offensive guard at UK that was a four-year starter from 1994-97.
There are plenty of coaches on offense who can step in if necessary.
“We’ll handle it just fine within our program,” Stoops said. “That’s the nice thing about our staff is we have a lot of guys that are capable of doing that and guys with background there and, of course, Coach (Eddie) Gran can coach all the positions.
Gran, the offensive coordinator, said the team is rallying around its offensive line coach.
“Everyone’s thoughts and prayers are out to them and just to his family,” Gran said. “That’s where we’re at right now.”