On Saturday afternoon against Army, Paye got his opportunity to be a Michigan Wolverines hero. In double overtime, the 20-year-old strip-fumbled Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. on third down, securing the 24-21 Michigan victory.
It was a cohesive defensive effort on the final play that got Michigan a gutsy win. And it was Paye who showcased his physicality and speed, laying it all on the line to recover the game-winning fumble.
“Going into that drive, our offense came up with a field goal and we came together as a defense and said, ‘The game’s on us now, so we’ve got to go out and make this play,’” Paye said.
Kwity Paye Always Known for Multifaceted Athletic Ability
As far as he could remember, Paye loved sports. Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, Paye participated in many organized sports as he could.
As a junior in high school, Paye was a member of the state champion 4×100 meter relay team and won the state championship in the long jump. His natural athletic gifts transferred over to football, where he would often get snaps on both defense and offense.
Paye’s 65 tackles, 12.5 tackles-for-loss, and 4.5 sacks as a senior earned him All-USA Rhode Island First Team honors. A four-star recruit, the young defensive end’s quickness off the edge is what Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown admired in the youngster.
“Kwity is an unbelievable athlete,” said Brown. “He is an outstanding pass rusher, and his size potential is off the charts. Paye could play up and down on defense, which is another sign of his athleticism.”
Paye Finally Achieves Breakthrough Moment
Coming into the contest against Army, Paye had played in 23 games as a Wolverine. During his three years, he has been credited with 34 tackles and six tackles-for-loss.
It helps when you play for a Michigan defense ranked second in the country in passing yards and total offensive yards. But compared to names like Winovich and Gary, both drafted in the NFL, Paye never received the same national attention.
Saturday may have changed that narrative for Paye. On a day where the Wolverines offense committed a plethora of penalties and turnovers, the defense needed to step up in a big way.
Army runs a triple-option offense, where a majority of their plays are running the football. Despite giving up 207 yards of offense, the Wolverines created three takeaways of their own. Their presence on the field consistently gave Michigan a chance to win the game.
After scoring a field goal in double-overtime, the Michigan defense knew the moment was in their grasp to seize and claim victory. Paye, alongside fellow Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, were not going to let the moment slip away at the Big House.
“Kwity Paye I thought had an excellent game,” stated Harbaugh. “That was a gem of a defensive performance there’s no doubt about it. Talk about the last play, the last series, just the entire football game. The defense was not in the best positions (due to offensive woes), but played great.”
With the Michigan Wolverines 2-0, alarm bells are certainly going off about their offense. But with Paye and Hutchinson as the leading edge rushers, this Michigan defense will be just fine down the road.