Saturday, November 26, 2022

Football helped immigrant brothers break up

DENVER ( Associated Press) — Comote Kofi steps out of Lando Performance in suburban Denver, where he just finished another training session in the NFL in his quest to join his brother Indianapolis Colts edge rusher Quitty Pay.

“I’m not even going to live here,” offers Kofi, 25, a chiseled 6-foot-1, 200-pound defensive back from northern Colorado, who was born in a refugee camp in Sierra Leone.

He’s not going to fret over the break he’s taking on the eve of his college pro day, where he’ll deliver 20 reps on the bench press and cement his position as a potential Day 3 selection.

What that means is that he shouldn’t even be here in the United States.

When the war went after their family, where Quitty was born, Agnes Pays reached out to her grandmother in Rhode Island, who agreed to sponsor her so she could move to America.

Only he neglected to put the names of the children on the immigration affidavit. It was difficult enough to leave the boys’ father behind; He had no way of leaving his young children.

“I told them I couldn’t leave my kids,” she said.

A woman processing her paperwork fell for her precocious children and added the boys’ names under Agnes – Comote and Quitty are full brothers; Their different surnames are a cultural tradition – and all three were given a way to a better life.

“It was just a blessing,” said Agnes. “I knew God had a better place for these kids.

“We were coming just to survive, to live in peace, a place where you don’t have to wake up in the morning to run for your life or worry about finding food.”

Yet, even in America, she found herself shielding her boys from the gunshots that occasionally shattered their modest apartment.

To keep them off the streets and out of trouble, he signed them up for sports at the Boys & Girls Club. Football, basketball, track. When the football season started, he signed them for her as well.

When they got to that first exercise and heard bodies hitting each other, “we were afraid to play,” Kofi said.

When the coaches asked all the kids to bring their birth certificates the next day, the brothers, who were years away from becoming US citizens, could only provide their immigration cards.

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“It looked like a mugshot with all these fancy numbers,” Kofi recalled, “and I remember and Quitty were too embarrassed to take them out because they made us stand out.”

With his pronounced English and West African diet, this was another thing to tease. However, those taunts “only added to our fire,” Kofi said.

“It was like, ‘Okay, you guys want to make us stand out and tease us like we’re different, we’re going to show you how different we are,'” Kofi recalled.

The brothers made a pact to run faster and hit harder than the other kids.

“When we got on the football field, it felt like no one could compare to us. We were on a completely different level. We were standing outside,” he said.

He soon won over his teammates and learned quickly in and out of the game.

“And that’s when we fell in love with it,” Kofi said.

So he made another vow, doing everything he could to repay his mother, who had been working long hours as a nursing assistant, for all she had done to provide him with a better life.

“I remember we were in our bedroom one night, we were like 10 and 8 and we promised each other that we would do whatever we could to get him out of there,” Kofi said. said.

His younger brother blossomed into a 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end who excelled on his way to becoming a first-round pick at the University of Michigan, after starring at Bishop Hendrickson, a Catholic academy in Warwick, Rhode Island. . In last year’s NFL draft.

Kofi said, “He first retired my mother and bought her a car.” “Then, he started working on finding her a good home.”

If Kofi can join the NFL with his baby brother, he might want to send his father, who didn’t have a sponsor like his mother when he fled the war nearly a quarter century ago.

“War broke them all those years ago, but they’re back together now, they’re engaged,” Kofi said. “I want to try to get him here in America so that we can all be one family again.”

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Agnes has intensified as this year’s draft comes to a close.

“With Quitty we were sure,” she said. “As for Komote, I’m a little nervous and pray that someone gives him a shot because he’s a fighter.”

At the age of 15, he moved with a family friend to Tennessee to face better competition and earn a college scholarship.

After three seasons at Knoxville Central High School, Kofi transferred to Milford Academy in New York for his senior season.

He played a year of junior college ball at the North Dakota College of Sciences, earning that coveted Division I scholarship to New Mexico State University.

He relocated to northern Colorado for his final season to play for head coach Ed McCaffrey and secondary coach Jimmy Spencer, who had a combined 25 years of NFL playing experience.

He earned his criminal justice degree when the pandemic wiped out the Bears’ 2021 season, then provided leadership and sensible play in McCaffrey’s inaugural season in 2022, while his younger brother was playing his rookie season at Indianapolis.

“My brother took a straight road to the NFL and my road has been up and down,” said Kofi, who played inside safety, cornerback, nickelback, and linebacker, a versatility he hopes would make him someone. makes for an attractive prospect.

“I’m just hoping for an opportunity,” Kofi said. “Thing about me, once I get my foot in the door, I’ll take care of the rest.”

Here’s the surprising part: Despite the two-year age difference and parting paths, the brothers never played football together.

“We were never on the same ground. We practiced at different times,” Coffee said. “So, my brother never saw me play.”

This may change soon.

“I just talked to him last night,” Kofi said. “I was like, ‘How crazy would it be if it was hot in the same area?’ I’m telling you, looking across the grass and seeing each other will probably be a very emotional moment.'”

Fulfilling a dream and a promise simultaneously.


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