Colts first-round pick: Michigan’s Kwity Paye


INDIANAPOLIS – A tough process (the NFL Draft is inaccurate science, remember?) And a big decision was reduced to something simple for Chris Ballard.

Sitting on the No. 21 echelon Thursday night, the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts considered a comeback offer.

“It wasn’t enough to get past the player we were going to take,” Ballard said on a conference call with Zoom. “It just wasn’t worth enough for us to say ‘Let’s move on and pass a player that we value a lot, that fits our culture and fits what we want to do.’ ”

So Ballard said, “No thanks.”

He held on and invested the 21st overall pick in a gifted athletic Michigan pass rusher that ticked virtually all of the applicable boxes.

Welcome to Indy, Kwity Paye.

“It was easy,” said Ballard. “It was really easy. Look, I made some pretty easy choices where you knew it. You pulled the card and it was easy, and pulling the Kwity Paye card was very easy. “

“He represents everything we want to defend. He has an amazing story and just feels very lucky tonight. Sometimes, it goes as you want and tonight, we have the impression that it went like us. ”

From a football standpoint, Paye fulfills one of the Colts’ pressing needs: the edge pass rusher. Ballard will have to wait until Friday’s portion of the draft – rounds 2 and 3, starting at 7 p.m. – to perhaps find a suitable left tackle.

Paye was too handsome to pass up.

He’s a 6’4 ″ 272 pound monster that dazzled scouts at Michigan’s Pro Day: a 4.57 40, a vertical jump of 35.5, 36 bench reps at 225 pounds. In 38 games for the Wolverines, he racked up 23.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks, including two sacks and four best tag team tackles for loss in four starts last season.

There was a coveted group of Ballard passers and his staff – Paye was the second defensive end in the table, preceded by Jaelen Phillips of Miami, who turned 18.e overall to the Miami Dolphins – but Paye was seen as an ideal “fit” for coordinator Matt Eberflus’ schedule.

“It was really easy,” Ballard repeated. “You’re always looking for guys who pop. Do they skip the tape when you watch them all 22? Who leaves the band and Kwity leaves the band. One, with his athleticism and speed, but also with his effort.

“This kid is already playing like we want to play. It will integrate quite quickly. ”

His unique soccer skills aside, Ballard was struck by Paye’s character and backstory.

Yes, the Colts are always on the lookout for talent and difference makers. But they also place special importance on a prospect’s temperament. What makes a particular player?

As the Colts selected Paye, an NFL Network video of what shaped him and got him to this point went viral.

His mother, Agnes, twice escaped the devastating civil war in Liberia. When Paye was a child, the family emigrated from West Africa to a poor neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. Agnes worked several jobs to pay rent and allow Kwity to attend Bishop Hendricken HS, a private school in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Kwity’s primary goal while growing up: to ensure that he can find a job that would allow him to take care of his mother.

He first traveled to Michigan with the intention of obtaining a law enforcement degree. He was a fan of “Criminal Minds” and believed that a career with the FBI might be in his future.

“I took school very seriously,” Paye said. “I wanted to make sure I got good grades so I could get a good job. After my freshman year in college, I started getting my name written on fake drafts. It was there that I realized that I could take it to the next level. ”

Made. His rookie deal is a four-year contract (with a fifth-year option) worth $ 13.645 million with a signing bonus of $ 7.3 million.

When the Colts called Thursday night, Paye was in Denver surrounded by his mother and family. Mother and son shared a long emotional embrace.

“It means everything,” he said of the NFL. “It was my goal all my life growing up. Just seeing how hard she was working. That’s what made me work harder.

“Being able to tell her that she’s finished (working) means a lot. ”

Ballard admitted he had “tears in his eyes” watching the video.

“Her mother, what a wonderful woman and what she did for her children and what they went through,” he said. “She deserves a lot of credit. ”

It was Paye’s experience, coupled with his skills and intriguing assets, that convinced Ballard he was worthy of the 21st overall choice.

“Look, he has to have a good band first. It’s No.1, ” he said. “To be put on the board in the first lap, you have to have a very good squad. Then you have to go through the rest of the process. “

“What his backstory tells you is that this kid has survivor skills and when it gets tough in this league, he’ll be able to handle it. The players will fail. You’re going to have a bad time, and you’ve got to have something in you that’ll get you through it. I think Kwity has that. ”

Thursday night, Ballard pointed out, was one of those times when it all fell into place.

“It’s easy to recruit talent. It’s not difficult to do, ” he said. “But to recruit talent with character, it’s difficult. This does not always happen. “

“When you get one that has a unique skill set with character, that’s a beautiful thing. ”

Paye said he had several preliminary meetings with the Colts and was not surprised to launch his NFL career at Indy. Even so, he is not yet aware of Eberflus’ defensive plan or personnel.

“Not that familiar,” Paye said, “but a huge fan of DeForest Buckner and just thrilled to go and work with him.”

The Colts will need Paye to have an immediate impact on the defensive front. They re-signed Al-Quadin Muhammad, but Denico Autry has signed with the Tennessee Titans and Justin Houston remains unsigned.

Paye describes himself as a “blue collar” player who “always chases the ball”.

His new teammates were quick to react to his addition to the roster.

“Congratulations champion,” Buckner tweeted. “Welcome to Indy. I look forward to having you racing in QB for the next two years. LET GOOOO. #SackCityIndy. ”

And this from linebacker Darius Leonard: “Welcome boy! Be ready to work and eager to learn man. Let’s go baby !!!! ”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @ mchappell51.

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