By SCOTT COTTOS
While Buffalo Bills fans remain giddy over their team reaching the playoffs after a 17-year drought, it’s a matter of course for Micah Hyde.
The 2009 Fostoria High School graduate went to the postseason in each of the four seasons he played for the Green Bay Packers. Now with the Bills, he said the team is all businesss as they prepare for Sunday’s AFC Wild Card clash against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
“People are so happy,” Hyde said in a telephone interview. “Team-wise, we’re glad to be in, but we’re planning to play for a while.”
It’s been quite a first year in Buffalo for Hyde. While helping the Bills finish second in the AFC East with a 9-7 record, the 5-foot-11, 197-pound strong safety earned his first spot in the Pro Bowl. The NFL’s all-star contest is scheduled for Jan. 28 in Orlando, Fla., a week before the Super Bowl is played in Minneapolis.
Hyde was the AFC’s top recipient of fan votes at his position.
“It feels very good,” Hyde said of his Pro Bowl nod. “It still hasn’t sunk in and it probably won’t until I get down there. Actually, I hope I won’t be going because that means we’ll still be playing. But it’s just an honor, man. It’s just a blessing that I have a lot of support.”
The idea of the Bills reaching the Super Bowl isn’t too far-fetched. Five teams have won the Super Bowl after entering the playoffs as a wild-card team, the last being the 2007 New York Giants.
Though it had been seen as a team on the rise, Buffalo was something of a surprise to earn a playoff spot. But the defense has been a key ingredient of the Bills’ run, thanks in large part to the safety duo of Hyde and free safety Jordan Poyer.
Like Hyde, Poyer, a former defensive back and special-teams player for the Cleveland Browns, joined Buffalo as a free agent and became a starter with a full-time position. Hyde and Poyer were the league’s only safety tandem to have five interceptions apiece this season.
“When we first got here, we looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do something,'” Hyde said.
After moving around in Green Bay’s secondary and becoming a standout punt returner, Hyde settled in at strong safety with the Bills this season and collected 82 tackles, five interceptions and 13 pass breakups. Hyde and Poyer tied for fifth in the NFL in interceptions.
Though he wasn’t in Buffalo last season, Hyde is well aware of the difference rookie head coach Sean McDermott has made since the Bills went 7-9 in 2016, when Rex Ryan was fired as head coach and the team finished the season under now-Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn.
“It’s a huge difference,” Hyde said. “Our team just loves his attitude. He’s a go-getter and he’s pushing this organization in the right direction.”
From the start, Hyde has said he planned to honor McDermott’s request and be a leader on the team. As it’s turned out, the role has meant more than having an effect on his teammates in a city that’s grown skeptical even through successful times.
“The funny thing is it wasn’t the players I had to discuss it with,” Hyde said of a three-game losing streak the Bills endured this season. “It was the media. It’s so week-to-week (with positive or negative coverage), it’s ridiculous. I just told them, ‘Look, we’re good. Come December, anything can happen.'”
And that “anything” arrived on New Year’s Eve — Hyde’s 27th birthday — when the Bills’ win over the Miami Dolphins was followed by a Cincinnati Bengals victory over Baltimore that knocked the Ravens out of the postseason and gave Buffalo the final AFC spot.
After their own win, the Bills watched on television as Andy Dalton threw the game-winning touchdown pass.
“We were just going crazy,” Hyde said.
Hyde feels good about being in Buffalo, where he and fiancee Amanda Kamiksisian have had a house built.
But, as noted in the Hyde biography on the Bills’ website, Fostoria provides his motivation as he plays.
“Everything I’ve done has come from the mindset that I had growing up, that you have to work for things,” he said. “That place has taught me so much. The people make it what it is.”
If that means being role model to Fostoria youngsters, he understands because as a boy, he looked up to players such as former Redmen and NFL players Damon Moore, who is Hyde’s uncle, and Richard Newsome.
“I didn’t choose to be a role model,” Hyde said. “But the fact that I’ve made it to this point … it’s a responsibility that I have.”
By SCOTT COTTOS