By SCOTT COTTOS
FOSTORIA — Only a few of the participants in Saturday’s third annual Micah Hyde Football Camp were girls.
It’s unlikely any traveled any further than Kiera Anderson to take part.
The 11-year-old rode 12 hours from Humboldt, Iowa, to join others entering grades 4 through 6 in the morning session of the camp on Saturday at Fostoria’s Memorial Stadium hosted by Hyde, a former all-Ohio player at Fostoria High School who’s now a veteran strong safety for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
Kiera Anderson became familiar with Hyde through her father, Justin, a fan of the University of Iowa, where Hyde starred before being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2013.
Kiera, who said she and her dad previously met Hyde when he was a Hawkeye, has become a football player herself. She will play flag football this fall before moving into the tackle ranks next year.
“I just saw it and I was like, ‘Whoa!,'” she said of becoming interested in the camp. “And then I asked my dad, ‘Can I go to this?’ she said. “He was like, ‘Yeah.'”
And so little Kiera became one of a total of 500 youngsters to participate in the event, which was free to the campers and raised funds for Hyde’s IMagINe for Youth foundation. IMagINe kicked off with the camp two years ago as a vehicle to enable children to overcome obstacles to participating in sports stemming from hardships both financially, and because of a lack of equipment.
It’s largely a family affair, with the foundation staff including Hyde’s mother, Pam Moore, and her husband, Clayton, and Hyde’s wife, Amanda.
After the camp concluded in the afternoon with the seventh- and eighth-grade session, Pam Moore presented Amanda Hyde with the first Hyde Five Award for her many contributions to IMagINe.
A few other honors were distributed, with Stadium Drive east of Town Street formally being renamed Micah Hyde Drive and Hyde receiving the Hometown Hero Award from the American Woodmen of America financial service provider. Also, Ernest Franklin, a Fostoria resident who has rooted for the Bills for 43 years, received a football helmet autographed by team members.
Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler presided over the unveiling of the street sign bearing Hyde’s name. Keckler has attended and enjoyed all three of Hyde’s camps.
“This is awesome,” Keckler said. “It’s just amazing to have 500 kids out here today. What a great opportunity for all these kids. And you’ll see them all summer, wearing their Micah Hyde Football Camp shirts. What a great day.”
The 28-year-old Hyde, as always, seemed to have as much fun as the campers as he joined them in drills and laughed and joked with them. A number of friends of Hyde’s served as coaches, as did wide receiver Brandon Reilly and tight end Logan Thomas of the Detroit Lions. Both Reilly and Thomas are former Buffalo teammates of Hyde’s.
“It was amazing — amazing as always,” Hyde said of the day. “Everyone stepped up and did a good job. Thanks to the IMagINe staff. They just always come through at every event. There are always Amanda’s standards, my mom’s standards. They do an awesome job and put their hearts into it and every community that we touch definitely feels it.”
Hyde’s mother and wife said the camp is becoming less difficult to plan and operate each year.
“As far as the staff and the volunteers go, we’re flowing better,” Pam Moore said. “We’ve gotten into a routine over the years. We know what works and what doesn’t work, and the best part is it gets easier and easier every year.”
Said Amanda Hyde: “Comparing this year to our very first year, it’s really fun to see how it’s changed for the better. The volunteers, they show up and know what to do with registration and where the kids go and this and that. It’s perfect. All the pieces fit now.”
The linchpin is Hyde, who supplies his ideas to the IMagINe staff and board of directors and then connects well on the field with the youngsters.
During a ball carrier’s drill, Hyde stood at the end of the running lane and tried to strip the ball from the kids’ grasps. He jokingly gave himself a cheer after pulling the ball from the arms of one boy, but he then quickly gave the youngster pointers on how to better prevent fumbling.
“He’s incredible,” Amanda Hyde said of her husband’s ability to reach kids.
“He’s from here. This is his hometown. He works hard and he’s made it. He beat the odds and he made it. And I think it’s so incredible that he remains so humble. He takes his time with these kids. He acknowledges them and he talks to them. And I think it’s so important for them to see that anything is possible. If they work hard, anything is possible.”
Jacob Weiker, a 14-year-old from Tiffin, will take away plenty of fond memories, as he’ll be too old to participate in the camp next year.
“It was really awesome,” he said. “I’ve been coming here every year, and every year I’ve really enjoyed it. This has been one of my highlights every summer.”
Indeed, Kiera Anderson said the camp was worth the 12-hour ride from Iowa to enjoy the football work and again talk to Hyde, who she described as “nice.” And Hyde wants his foundation’s work to have that kind of widespread connection while keeping Fostoria firmly entrenched as its home.
“Her dad was wearing a Hawkeyes shirt,” Hyde said of Kiera. “That’s awesome, man. That’s exactly what we try to do. We want to impact a lot of kids all over. To come all the way from Iowa, that means a lot. That’s awesome. That’s amazing.”