Phillips is a former five-star recruit who suffered three concussions at UCLA and medically retired from football in 2018. However, he returned in 2020 with Miami and had a big year, accumulating eight sacks, 15½ tackles for loss and an interception in 10 games.
While there is no questioning Phillips’ athletic ability, the concussions may be a concern to NFL teams. Phillips doesn’t think they should be.
“Look, man, the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “My play on the field obviously showed (that). I didn’t miss a game, didn’t miss a workout, didn’t miss anything. And if you watched the (spectacular) Pro Day (performance), you saw the risk is worth it. Obviously I’m healthy, so I don’t think it’s a risk at all. We play a dangerous and violent game, so obviously people get hurt. But I wouldn’t be here today if I was a risk.”
When Phillips retired from football, he dove into music and worked odd jobs, but realized that the flame still burned bright for a return to the gridiron.
“Everybody’s path to success isn’t linear,” Phillips said. “There are ups and downs. I think all of that gave me a better look at everything. It made me have this chip on my shoulder and gave me a deeper appreciation for what the game is and what it brings to me. I never lost my passion for football, but I just needed a little kick in the butt.”
Paye didn’t have the same breakout season collegiately as the Miami duo, but the Michigan product is getting Top-10 buzz based on his traits.
The 6-foot-2, 261-pound edge rusher has elite speed for his size and admits it’s pretty cool to see his name high up the board in mock drafts. This type of future was something Paye, who was born in a refugee camp in Guinea after his mother escaped war-torn Liberia, did not think was realistic as a child.
“For me, it was all a dream,” Paye said. “To look back now, like, man, that’s wild. I have a wallet that I’ve had since sixth grade, and in my wallet I wrote a couple quotes. Every day I’ll pull it out and I’ll read those quotes. I wrote these in sixth grade and now I’m accomplishing everything I wanted to accomplish. It’s unreal, but at the same time, I worked to get here. It feels good.”