« Football 2020-21

Kwity Paye

University of Michigan
Afro-American Studies
Kwity Paye


Paye is a rare player with multiple all-conference honors on the field, but is also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. He specifically cited earning a third academic honor as a reason for returning for his senior season in 2020.

Our Director of Football Academics Claiborne Greene calls Paye “nothing less than outstanding in regards to his academic work and community involvement” and says “working with Kwity has truly impacted my life.” He has been awarded U-M’s Academic Athletic Achievement Award as well as the Big Ten’s Academic honor in every year he was eligible. Being born in Africa, Paye has a deep personal and cultural connection to his Afroamerican and African Studies major. On our team trip to South Africa, he was highly involved and you could see the way the trip affected him personally. He is a naturally curious person and the energy he brings to the football field is matched with his effort in the classroom.


Paye’s character is second to none. Born in a refugee camp in Guinea as his family fled the Liberian Civil War, his story is one of perseverance and positivity. He has spoken of growing up in Rhode Island and being teased at school because of where he is from. He remembers his mother worked several jobs and worked her way from a shared apartment with eight family members to sacrificing to put him through high school at Bishop Hendricken. Paye promised if his mother could do that, he would go to college for free. He fulfilled that promise.

When asked to retrieve letters of recommendation for Paye during an award nomination process, I received more letters more quickly than I have in six years nominating players for that award. After being in his life, people just want to help him because he is such an easy person to root for and so deserving of all the good things that come to him.


Paye is deeply involved in community action and service opportunities. In the summer of 2020, he embraced his platform in the community and became a vocal leader for this period of social change across our country. He helped lead teammates on a march for Black Lives Matter through the Ann Arbor campus. His community involvement reflects the care he has for his community.

Paye is also an executive member of TUFF (The Uniform Funding Foundation), a 501c3 nonprofit organization which provides uniforms, gear, and TUFF Talks from current college and NFL players to teams comprised of at-risk youth in low-income communities. He has publicly pushed the TUFF organization with his involvement and is active whenever a TUFF event takes place. So far, TUFF has raised over $100,000 in addition to funding uniforms for nine youth programs and 17 high schools (and counting). Nine current NFL players have participated in TUFF events so far.


Paye is an outstanding competitor. He is a two-time All-Big Ten selection including second team honorsin 2019-20, and was named honorable mention after just four starts in 2018-19. He shared U-M’s Richard Katcher Award in 2019, given to the top defensive lineman in the program.

Paye has made 15 starts in 33 total games played and has been an impact player throughout his career. He’s totaled 84 career tackles (44-40-84) with 19.5 for loss and 9.5 sacks with one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one pass defended. Paye’s 12.5 TFL in 2019 led all U-M defenders and his 6.5 sacks are most among returners.

He is of 10 players included in the Big Ten’s Preseason Honors for the 2020 season.