WARWICK, R.I. -- From the possibility of not being born, to a full ride at Boston College.
That’s the path being followed by Bishop Hendricken High junior running back/defensive end Kwity Paye.
Paye was a mere six months old when his mother, Agnes, took Kwity and his older brother, Komotay Kossia, and immigrated to Guinea from Liberia -- to escape the atrocities of a civil war -- where they settled in a refugee camp.
Eventually, Agnes Paye immigrated to the United States and took up residence in South Providence.
Now, flash forward to the present.
Paye, who checks in at a solid 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, has given a verbal commitment to play football for Boston College. And in retrospect, he might be the most talented player to emerge from the Rhode Island high school ranks since Hendricken alumnus Will Blackmon (who also played for BC), who was picked in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft by Green Bay and currently is playing for Washington.
To put it another way, the distance Paye has traveled is football’s equivalent of the distance between the Earth and the moon.
“My mother told me we were in a refugee camp and we moved around a lot,” said Paye. “There wasn’t a place for us to stay so we moved to Guinea where I was born.
“I believe she would have still tried to come to American as the (civil) war was going on. I don’t think they would have let us stay in Liberia. I don’t think we would be alive.”
Roll that around in your mind and then contemplate where Paye is now.
“I don’t remember a player in the last 20 years that’s generated as much interest as Kwity has,” said Hawks head coach Keith Croft, who’s been either an assistant or head coach at Hendricken for 20 years. “I think he’s going down the same path as Will Blackmon.
“The thing is, we’re all looking for more consistency from him. Where Will and Kwity were as juniors is very similar. The potential is there. He definitely has a lot of athleticism. His best days in football are still ahead of him.
“He has that rare breed of size and speed that you can’t coach,” continued Croft. “We don’t see a lot of players like him come through Rhode Island.”
Paye was used sparingly as a running back this season. Yet while he only carried the ball 19 times, he did gain 214 yards (a 12.8 average per carry) and score eight touchdowns.
At defensive end, he was credited with 68 tackles (6.8 per game) plus 5-1/2 sacks.
“He’s a handful at running back at the high school level,” said Croft. “At the college level he’s more suited for defense because of his size, speed, athleticism and ability to come off the edge.
“He could play offense but he’s best suited to be a defensive player because of his physical attributes which enable him to be able to rush the passer. You’re not taking a defensive player and trying to make him an offensive player because he already is. You don’t find many kids with his combination of skill sets in order to be a pass rusher.”
What’s even more noteworthy about Pare is that football wasn’t his first love. In fact, he wasn’t exposed to the sport until well after he came to America.
“The first sport I ever tried was track because my mom ran track when she was younger,” said Paye. “We tried other sports like soccer, basketball and baseball. When I came to football, I knew that was the sport I wanted to play in the future.
“The first (youth) team I was on was the West Elmwood Intruders when I was seven. It kept me off the streets when I was a kid.”
To say the emphasis on defense for Paye would be a major understatement.
“When I was younger I liked playing offense, but I played both sides of the ball,” he said. “When I was younger I played linebacker. When I came to Hendricken my sophomore year they moved me to defense because the coaches believed that’s where I could help the team the most and I would agree.
“When I like most about playing defense is stopping the offense from scoring and showing we have the best defense in the state. (Pressuring the quarterback) is a big role for our defense because it takes pressure off the corners to cover the receivers. It gives us more momentum when we stop the QB because he’s out of his rhythm and it really helps us.”
Because Paye and his teammates were able to keep quarterbacks “out of their rhythm” was a major reason why the Hawks captured a record seventh consecutive Division I Super Bowl championship this fall.
But despite all the accolades and attention this young man has received, Paye has yet to be measured for a larger helmet.
“He’s quiet, coachable and a hard worker,” said Croft. “There isn’t an ego. He’s a pretty easy going kid. He fits in well with the kids on the team. When you look at what he’s accomplishing you might think he has an ego.
“You wouldn’t know he’s heavily recruited by the way he handles himself. He’s a pretty laid-back kid and is down the Earth.”
That being said, Paye admitted that even in his wildest dreams he wouldn’t have achieved the level of success -- a level that could be even higher -- when he was younger.
“At the beginning I knew there were people before me who went to Division 1,” he said. “It all was really shocking for me because 10 years ago I never thought I would be in this position. But maybe it happened because of all the hard work I put in day in and day out.”