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INDIANAPOLIS – Kwity Paye in the NFL was not always a guarantee.

Hell, Paye just being in the United States is an incredible story.

While some NFL draft picks see professional football as a realistic dream from their days in high school, that wasn’t the case for Paye.

“Going into college, I didn’t think it was that real to be honest,” Paye said of making it to the NFL. “I took school really seriously because I wanted to get good grades so I could get a good job, but then after my junior year of college that’s when I started getting my name put on mock drafts. That’s when I realized that I could go to the next level.”

Taking school seriously was clear and evident by Paye’s 3.9 GPA at the University of Michigan.

His education in the NFL life is here thanks to his emergence during that junior season, in which he led Michigan with 12.5 tackles for loss and added 6.5 sacks.

Paye never seriously pondered opting out of his final season at Michigan, even after getting banged up early in 2020.

While his goals of delivering championships to Michigan did not occur, Paye established himself as a first-round draft pick.

And that meant a whole lot to him, and his mother, who had the incredible courage to lead Kwity and his older brother out of war-torn Africa, and to Rhode Island in the late 1990s.

When Paye was selected by the Colts, he accomplished something that he dreamed of in repaying his mom.

After years of working multiple jobs to send her boys to private schools, Agnes Paye can now retire.

“It means everything,” Paye says of telling his mom she can stop working. “That was my goal my whole life growing up, just seeing how hard she worked. That’s what made me work harder, so being able to tell her she’s done means a lot.”

How Paye describes his playing style (“blue collar”) sounds similar to the work ethic instilled into him by his mother.

The Colts love that and that’s why they had several meetings with Paye during the draft process.

Internally, the Colts are projecting Paye into more of an edge rushing role at the next level, something he wasn’t used in as consistently as other college rushers.

Development is needed to round out Paye’s pass rush skillset. The Colts know that.

What they are banking on is Paye’s background and his upbringing allowing him to reach that ceiling.

“Once I was picked, I turned around and saw my family there, it was kind of heartwarming and that’s when I started to remember all the long nights and all the hard work that I put in throughout the years,” Paye says.

It’s an incredible story, and one the Colts hope has many more chapters.