UM's Kwity Paye focused on goals amid projections he'll go in first round of NFL Draft

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Kwity Paye dug into his backpack, found his thick, weathered wallet and proudly displayed it to the Zoom audience of reporters.

It felt like show and tell. After all, this was a wallet he’s had since elementary school.

“This is the famous wallet,” Paye said smiling. “Had it since sixth grade.”

Paye will go through Pro Day on Friday at Michigan where he was a standout defensive end, and his intention is to “solidify” what NFL scouts already think about him, he said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. In ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft, he has the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Paye as a No. 11 pick in the first round

“I try not to pay attention to it, I try not to get caught up in all the mock drafts and what people are saying about me, but it is cool to see where they have me going,” Paye said.

Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye is locked in on achieving his goals

He was raised in Providence, R.I., but his story began long before that when his mother, Agnes Paye, gave birth to him in Guinea, after she fled Sierra Leone where she had her oldest son after fleeing war-torn Liberia. When Kwity was sixth months old, the family came to the United States.

Paye had been motivated to succeed at Michigan academically and in football to provide for his mother. To guide himself and maintain his focus, Paye, while in sixth grade, started to collect quotes he wrote on a sheet of paper that he then placed in his wallet. On another sheet, he wrote what he’s grateful for.

“Every day I’ll pull it out and read those quotes, and I’ll be like, ‘Man, I wrote this when I was in sixth grade and now I’m accomplishing everything that I wanted to accomplish,’” Paye said. “It’s unreal, but at the same time, I worked to get here. It feels good.”

He removed the sheet of inspirational quotes and read a few out loud on Thursday:

“Nothing worth having comes easy.”

“Nothing will get in the way of me achieving my dreams.”

“Work hard and take care of my family.”

“Remember when you wanted what you currently have.”

“Those keep me grounded, keep me humble,” Paye said. “And (they) remind me where I came from just because especially now in life where I’m at, there’s gonna be a lot of people that’s gonna try and boost my head up and make me forget who I am and where I come from.”

Kiper earlier this month raved about Paye’s pass-rush potential and versatility. Paye had 23.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks during his career. He is expected to impress during testing Friday.

“He’s really a freak of nature, just how big he is, how strong he is, how fast he is, a combination of all the things you would want in a D-end,” former Michigan linebacker Cam McGrone, also preparing for the NFL Draft, said Thursday.

Paye has no plans to trade in his old wallet, and as the NFL Draft April 29-May 1 nears, he knows he’s close to realizing some of those hopes he had as a sixth grader.

“At times when I start thinking about it, my heart starts to beat faster,” he said. “When I was in middle school I always dreamt  I get the chance to go play in the NFL even though those chances were very small. Coming from Rhode Island, you don’t see anybody get drafted first round or playing college football at a high level, so for me, it was all a dream up until I’m here now looking back. It’s wild.”

He also is at ease knowing he is fulling his goal to take care of his mother.

“That’s the thing I wanted to do since I was young,” Paye said. “I had seen how hard she worked, how much she struggled to get us through. Now, she’s just relaxing now, she’s just chilling, so it feels good to have her be with my younger brothers and raise them because at times when I was younger, she wasn’t really around, she just had to work. It just feels good.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis