When an SEC scout for the Lions came to Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell prior to the draft with his report on Kentucky defensive lineman Josh Paschal, the GM and head coach had to know more.
"The research he had on him was glowing," Holmes said over the weekend after the Lions drafted Paschal in the second round, No. 46 overall. "He had Dan and I sold on just wanting to find out more about him. You’re wild about him when you turn on the tape, but then when you find out about the human being, you’re just impressed even more."
At Kentucky, Paschal was the first three-time captain in program history. He beat cancer after being diagnosed with melanoma the summer before his sophomore year -- and recovered to play in three games that season. He would rack up 31 tackles for loss the three seasons after that. The tape said a lot about Paschal. For Holmes and Campbell, his teammates and coaches said even more.
"He’s battled things personally that he’s persevered. That often can shape a person," said Holmes. "When you find out more about him and how he utilizes his time, he’s very proactive, very intentional in everything he does. And when you hear his teammates and coaches talk about him, you just get a little bit different tune than you’re used to hearing."
Add it all up, and Holmes decided Paschal was a player the Lions had to have.
"You talk about favorites that emerged throughout the process, Josh was one of them," Holmes said Tuesday on the Stoney & Jansen Show. "The entire building was just in love with the player. The first time I watched him on film I was like, this guy is unbelievable, in terms of his versatility, his explosiveness, he’s high motor, he fits all the intangibles that we look for. But then when you learn more about the human being, that was just the icing on top.
"He was one of those guys and I told Dan, ‘If we don’t come off with this guy, I'm going to be mad.' I told Dan that straight-up, ‘I’m going to be mad if we don’t come off with him.' But I will say that was an emphasis going into the offseason, pass rush in general, but we wanted to upgrade interior pass rush as well and Josh can help us with that."
Paschal racked up five sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season, the latter tied for second most in the SEC. He was named first-team All-Conference. He is a grown man at 6'3, 270 lbs. who will add power and speed to the interior of Detroit's defensive line.
"He’s just a versatile player," said Holmes. "I think he can play up and down our defensive front. He’s been a highly effective interior rusher, but he can also set edges and plays the run well. He’s got elite, elite character and intangibles, some of the best that I’ve experienced and I’ve researched on."
That's high praise from an exec who has spent nearly 20 years in the NFL scouting college players. So is this:
"He’s got pop in his hands. He’s got incredible instincts. He can shed, he can find the football in the run game. He beat some really good tackles down in the SEC. He’s a skillful pass rusher. He’s got crafty hands and he’s explosive. He’s high-motor. He’s a football player, and that’s what we talk about all the time. Josh is one, but he’s more than that. He’s outstanding, intangibles and character. He should be able to contribute hopefully soon.”