Westfield, Ind. — Salt and Pepper are back together.
This week’s joint practices with the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts were not only productive for two teams getting ready to start the NFL season, but also for the friendship of former University of Michigan teammates.
After months of spotty communication, Lions rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Colts defensive end Kwity Paye, who went by the moniker ‘Salt and Pepper’ during their time at Michigan, finally got to the bottom of their estranged friendship.
“I found out yesterday that I had actually blocked his number,” Hutchinson said after Thursday’s practices in Westfield, Indiana. “I was texting him; if you look at our messages, I had about five messages to him. I was like, ‘Dude, Kwity’s ghosting me right now.'”
Paye, however, said that he was “texting him back paragraphs.”
No matter; they were still communicating over social media — “We always react to each other’s stuff (on Instagram),” Hutchinson said — and now that the texting issue is solved, the two former first-round picks, who played three years together at Michigan, can look forward to leaning on each other as they continue to figure out life in the NFL.
When they got together after practice Thursday, Paye walked Hutchinson through a handful of different moves — which will surely end up on next week’s “Hard Knocks” — before breaking off to do a joint press conference.
“(We were) just talking ball, you know? Just figuring things out. I haven’t talked ball with Kwity in a while, so it’s good to catch up a little bit,” Hutchinson said.
Paye tallied 11.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles-for-loss during 28 career games at Michigan. He started 15 games his rookie season after being selected 21st overall by the Colts in 2021. He ended the year with a forced fumble, two recoveries, four sacks and 32 tackles. He’s hoping to make big progress in year two, and sharing everything that he can with Detroit’s top draft pick.
“Before we actually came here, I was asking (Hutchinson) what type of moves he was going to work (on) this year and what he’s looking for,” Paye said. “And from there, just telling him what I had learned from last year, my first year in the league, how these O-linemen punch. It’s really just all film study and just seeing how they set up from their stance, you can really tell before the ball is snapped, from their back foot, vertical set or jump set and all that.
“Just the small tips I’ve learned to try and tell him, but Aidan’s a dog. Aidan watches film himself, but the small knowledge I can give to him, I wish will help him out.”
Hutchinson hasn’t taken the advice for granted, either now or during their time in Ann Arbor. He recalled Paye was “a great leader” when they played together.
“You watch the tape, he’s so strong, so physical, so fast out there,” Hutchinson said. “Just picking up little things that he does technique-wise, whether that was stance, whether that was get-off, something like that. I was always looking up to Kwity because he’s a really great guy and we always got along.”
If he’s being honest, Hutchinson is still a bit disappointed that he had to play his final season at Michigan without his partner in crime.
“We came up together a little bit and then Kwity left me in my senior year,” Hutchinson said, laughing. “No, but we’re both here and it’s crazy that we’re practicing together but we’re in different jerseys, so yeah, it’s wild.”
They’re both immensely proud of each other for the way that they’ve continued a really solid run for University of Michigan edge rushers going with high picks in recent years.
Before Paye went to the Colts in 2021 and Hutchinson to the Lions this past year, Rashan Gary (Green Bay Packers) went No. 12 in 2019 and defensive end Taco Charlton (Dallas Cowboys) went 28th overall in 2017.
“It means a lot just to see my peer doing well, just to see, after Michigan, doing well,” Paye said. “It gets to solidify Michigan as having some of the greatest edges coming out. You know, our great coaching, and we just put out great D-linemen.”
And in response to the most pressing matter of the day, Paye said that he did, in fact, Hutchinson’s rendition of “Billie Jean” during the first episode of “Hard Knocks.”
“I thought it was great. I was watching, I was like, ‘There you go, Aidan,’ because my rookie talent show was horrible. It was horrible. Mine was horrible,” Paye said.
“I tried to dance a little bit; they were like, ‘Boooo!'”