BY SCOTT COTTOS
For the last four years, Micah Hyde has gone to work on several Sundays at legendary Lambeau Field as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
As a defensive back and special teams player, the former Fostoria High School all-Ohio performer helped one of the NFL’s flagship franchises reach the playoffs in every year he was there, twice reaching the NFL championship game.
It’s a new ballgame for the 26-year-old Hyde in 2017, though. After the Packers failed to offer him a contract in free agency — an inaction for which Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson has since issued a public apology — Hyde has shuffled off to Buffalo for a five-year, $30 million contract and a key spot in new coach Sean McDermott’s effort to breathe new life into a franchise currently experiencing the league’s longest playoff drought at 17 years.
The Bills open training camp today at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York, and Hyde is excited about a new start.
“It’s pretty cool,” Hyde said in a phone interview while taking a break from the process of moving from his offseason training base in San Diego to Buffalo. “The majority of the team is new. Sean McDermott has come in and changed a lot of things.”
Having gone through mini-camps and organized team activities, Hyde is sold on his new coach, who at age 43 has his first head-coaching position after having most recently been the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator.
“This is the guy to take us to the playoffs,” he said. “He’s hard-nosed, he’s a motivator. This guy’s the real deal.”
McDermott has refused to call this a rebuilding season in Buffalo despite a high amount of roster turnover from last year’s 7-9 squad.
Among key acquisitions the Bills have made are Hyde, former Cleveland Browns defensive back Jordan Poyer; fullback Patrick DeMarco, who last played for the Atlanta Falcons; and ex-Seattle Seahawks placekicker Stephen Hauschka.
Hyde is regarded as the centerpiece of the Bills’ offseason activity after four years of contributing in a variety of ways in Green Bay. Last season, the 6-foot, 197-pounder supplied the Packers’ defense 58 tackles, intercepted three passes, recovered two fumbles and made one sack. He also came up with a key interception of Dak Prescott in Green Bay’s victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Hyde also returned 11 punts for an average of 5.8 yards.
In preparing for the upcoming season, Hyde said he experienced “the best offseason I’ve had,” noting that he’s added considerable strength during his workouts in San Diego.
He’s also had a few other noteworthy experiences.
In June, Hyde kicked off his IMagINe for Youth Foundation by hosting a free football camp at Memorial Stadium for 500 boys and girls. He estimated the camp raised more than $25,000 for IMagINe, and its first donation was $1,000 to the Fostoria-based Ohio Lady Lightning under-16 softball team for its trip to Missouri for a national tournament.
Also, last weekend he became engaged to Amanda Kamiksisian of San Diego, who he said has been an integral part of his foundation, his camp and his transition to Buffalo, where the couple is having a house built.
“Amanda’s done a real good job of letting me concentrate on football and taking care of a lot of the other things,” Hyde said.
What the near future brings on the football field remains to be seen. Hyde was known as the Packers’ “Swiss Army knife” in the secondary for his ability to play any position. That may again be his role — and it’s one he likes — though there has also been speculation of him pinning down the free safety spot.
“It’s kind of up in the air,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to learn the defense the best that I can.”
Hyde does expect to be involved in making a lot of calls from the secondary, with the defense “letting me do what I do best — go find the football.”
The Bills’ defense is under the command of coordinator Leslie Frazier, whose initial conversation with Hyde took an interesting turn.
“When I first sat down to talk to him, he said, ‘Fostoria, Fostoria. I know someone from there,'” Hyde said.
Frazier finally pinpointed that when he coached the Philadelphia Eagles defensive backs in the late 1990s, one of his players was Damon Moore, also an FHS graduate and Hyde’s uncle.
Frazier won a Super Bowl as a cornerback on the fabled defense of the 1985 Chicago Bears, and Hyde came close to reaching two Super Bowls in Green Bay. Now they’ll team up in search of similar success in Buffalo.
Hyde acknowledged that he enjoyed playing for the Packers, but he’s looking forward to his new challenge.
“I think it was a lot more tough for my mom and Amanda,” he said of leaving Green Bay after the conclusion of his camp in Fostoria. “They had all the Packers gear you could ever dream of, and going to the games and being at Lambeau — it was awesome. I wouldn’t trade being drafted there for the world.
“Now that I have some experience of winning and going to a new team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 17 years … I wasn’t part of any of those teams, so that stat doesn’t really matter to me. I’m trying to instill that winning mentality. That’s what Sean McDermott has asked me to do in Buffalo. The first phone call I had with him was, ‘I need you to do that.’ A lot of these guys have never been to the playoffs or on a winning team, so I’m going to be that vocal guy when it gets tough in the middle of the season and we have a rough patch of maybe a couple of losses in a row. I know how to dig out of it.
“We had to put our head down last year, when we had to win eight straight just to get in the playoffs and make it as far as we did. (McDermott) mentioned that as soon as I got there, and I’m glad that he has that respect for me.”
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