MICAH HYDE signs autographs after practice at the Buffalo Bills training camp in Pittsford, New York in July. Hydes contributions to the NFL team last year included career highs of 65 tackles and five interceptions as a full-time starter at strong safety. (Associated Press photo)
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) is drilled by the Buffalo Bills Micah Hyde (23) during a preseason NFL game last month in Orchard Park, New York. Im excited about this defense were going to have this year, Hyde says. (Associated Press photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the last in a five-day series about individuals from this area who play or coach in the National Football League. The NFL’s regular season began this week.

By SCOTT COTTOS
STAFF WRITER

FOSTORIA — Micah Hyde returned home in June to frolic at the same place where he created so much excitement in years past.

Fostoria High School’s former all-Ohio quarterback, now a Pro Bowl safety for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, hosted his second football camp at Fostoria’s Memorial Stadium and had as much fun as the participating youngsters while throwing passes, covering the boys and girls as they ran pass patterns, and joking with other professional players he had invited.

It is, by his own admission, a bit mind-blowing for Hyde that the kid from a small city in northwest Ohio is now a standout NFL veteran, the originator of a foundation to assist children, and the frontman of a 500-student camp in his hometown.

The situation was not lost on his travel buddy, fellow Bills safety Jordan Poyer, who, like Hyde, has overcome the doubts of others to succeed in the league.

“Poyer and I drove in from Buffalo yesterday,” Hyde said while taking a break from putting the campers through their paces. “As we were driving into Fostoria, he was like, ‘You know, this is crazy. You’d have never known this would be the case, especially, like 10 years ago.'”

“Coming back to Fostoria, having my second year of a camp, playing in the NFL, going on my sixth year — this is wild, man. It’s wild,” Hyde said.

Not bad for a guy who was sparingly recruited by major colleges but ended up as the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year as a senior at Iowa.

Not bad for a guy who the Green Bay Packers selected in the fifth of seven rounds of the 2013 NFL draft.

Not bad for a guy who did not receive an offer of a second contract from the team that drafted him.

But while he has plenty of reasons to be proud of himself, the 27-year-old remains humble and focused on what earned him a multi-year, multi-million-dollar free agent contract from the Bills, a Pro Bowl selection in his first season with the team, and the No. 62 spot on the NFL Network’s list of 2017’s 100 best players.

“One day, maybe I’ll sit back and I’ll realize what I got to do in the NFL,” he said. “But as of right now, I’m always trying to get better. I feel like every season, I’ve gotten better. Right now … I’m ready. I’m ready to do this thing.”

While the offseason includes time to physically recover from the previous campaign — Hyde finished last season with a troublesome back and a concussion sustained in a first-round playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars — it consists mainly of workouts to get him in the best shape possible for the next go-around.

While spending most of his time in San Diego, where he married Amanda Kamiksisian on July 7, Hyde has gone through drills related to boxing and mixed martial arts and done workouts in a swimming pool and on the Southern California beach.

“Most of my training right now is to stretch out my body, doing gymnastics kinds of things,” Hyde said in a phone interview.

Hyde and the Bills will try to make further strides. Energized by new head coach Sean McDermott and his staff, they put together a 9-7 record last year and ended a 17-year playoff drought that was the longest in professional sports.

Hyde’s contributions included career highs of 65 tackles and five interceptions as a full-time starter at strong safety. He was named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad, but did not play because of injury.

The huge individual success was different from his stint in Green Bay, where he played capably for four years at every spot in the secondary and on special teams, but was never a full-time starter.

Hyde left in free agency after the Packers did not offer him a contract. Then-general manager Ted Thompson ended up apologizing to Packers fans for that.

In the meantime, Hyde seized his chance to shine with his new team.

“It’s all about an opportunity, man,” he said. “You hear that all the time from guys — they just want a shot, an opportunity. Some guys, they feel like they never got an opportunity.

“In my case, I was kind of like the fifth DB in Green Bay. When I got to Buffalo, I just made it a point that I wanted to be a full-time starter because in Green Bay that was something they didn’t really see me as — a full-time starter, an every-down player.

“Now that I’ve been able to show people that I’m able to do that, my teammates see that and they respect me, and I respect them. That’s all that matters.”

Poyer, Hyde’s sidekick at free safety, happened upon his position with the Bills in the same way, at the same time. Poyer, who formerly played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns, recorded 95 tackles, five interceptions and two sacks last season.

“I’m looking forward to what he’ll bring to this team,” Hyde said. “He’s one of our team leaders. He gets the job done. He’s one of those guys who works hard every single day. Everybody takes notice of it. Everybody respects him and it’s just good to have him on the team and playing alongside me.”

The Bills, who last season touted themselves as having the NFL’s best safety combination, relied heavily on their defense on their way to the playoffs. As one of the unit’s leaders, Hyde doesn’t just accept the responsibility, he embraces it.

“I’m excited about this defense we’re going to have this year,” he said. “I think we’re going to be good. We’re going to get turnovers. We’ve got guys at the back who can get to the football. We’ve got guys up front who can get to the quarterback. We’re excited, man. This is going to be a fun season.”

As nice as 2017 was for the Bills and their fans, though, “at the same time, it makes me want to work harder,” Hyde said.

“That just sets the bar even higher. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play in the Pro Bowl, and that’s one of my goals, man — I want to go there and play. So, I still have that goal alive, to be a Pro Bowl player.

“There are still a lot of goals, especially team goals. I want to go deep in the playoffs and get to the AFC championship game. I want to get to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. There are still a bunch of goals I want to get. But time will tell. It’s a process.”

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