By SCOTT COTTOS
They say time flies when you’re having fun.
Indeed, the annual Micah Hyde Football Camp is enjoyable for not only the young participants, but for the event’s namesake.
And seemingly in the snap of a finger, the camp is going on its fourth year. This year’s event, for boys and girls who will be entering grades 3 through 6, is scheduled for June 6 at Memorial Stadium.
“It’s crazy to think back to year one and how wild it was to get prepared for it,” said Hyde, a 2009 Fostoria High School graduate and a veteran safety for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, in a phone interview from his San Diego-area home. “We over-prepared for it. We tried to do too much.
“Looking back now, it’s come a long way. We love that it’s now going into year four, and we’re going to be doing this as long as we can. We think it’s an honor to be able to go back to Fostoria and do this every year. It’s a place that’s given me so much and I just want to give back to them.”
While camp participation is free to the youngsters, it is a fundraiser for Hyde’s foundation, IMagINe for Youth, which aims to assist children facing financial hardships to pursue their desires to take part in sports.
Though the Bills’ season has been finished since their loss to the Houston Texans in the first round of the NFL playoffs, Hyde has been busy not only with working out to be ready for his upcoming eighth NFL season, but in aiding with preparations for the football camp and the charity softball game he’ll host in Buffalo on May 31 and a life-changing role as a father.
Hyde’s wife, Amanda, is due to deliver their first child March 10. The couple has added to the suspense by refusing to learn the sex of the child in advance.
“Right now, she’s getting pretty uncomfortable. We think it’s going to be in the next two weeks,” Hyde said, adding they’re “extremely excited.”
This year’s camp will have a significant change in regard to the age of the participants. Instead of including rising seventh- and eighth-graders, the camp this year will take in children going into grades 3 and 4 to go with those entering grades 5 and 6.
“In years past in the 7th and 8th grade, we’ve had a lot of kids sign up but not show up the day of the camp,” Hyde said. “It was cutting into a lot of the costs that we have. It was hurting us a lot because we’ve got to pay for a lot of stuff and then these kids wouldn’t show up.
“I think last year we had 40-something kids not show up. And the year before, I want to say we had more than that. With the younger kids, there are a lot of them on the waiting list who would love to be a part of this. So, what we’re going to do is make it third through sixth grades.”
Two hundred-fifty spots will be filled in both the grades 3-4 and 5-6 groups. Online registration will be done at micahhydefootballcamp.com. Registration for grades 3 and 4 will begin at 9 a.m. on March 21, with those going into grades 5 and 6 registering at the same time on March 28. Spots have always gone quickly, so children and their parents are advised to be ready to go on their days to register. A waiting list will form after 250 spots in each group are filled.
“It always amazes me how quickly they sign up for it,” Hyde said. “They look forward to it every year and it’s cool to see.”
On the day of the camp, check-in for the two youngest grades will be 8 a.m., with the session running from 9 to 11 a.m. Check-in will be 11 a.m. for the two oldest grades, followed by camp from noon to 2 p.m.
A parent must remain on site while his or her child participates. Admission for adults is $5.
In addition to receiving a meal, each camper will receive a carry bag, shirt, shorts, mouthguard, ice pack, water bottle and an autographed photo of Hyde.
Hyde said he hopes more area businesses can get on board with sponsorships.
“I don’t think people realize how much goes into it, the time, effort, finances that go into running a camp like this,” he said. “Obviously, we’d love to get as much money as possible from local businesses, who may have their kids coming to the camp. With all those kids coming to the camp, it’s ideal to have as much money raised as possible. But it is what it is. We’ll continue to try to get out in the community and let them know the camp’s coming up again. We have our ups and our downs, but we’re just going to try to get as many sponsors as possible.”
Area coaches, friends of Hyde and other NFL players have aided the host in running drills. Hyde hopes some pros can again make time to take part this year.
The camp doesn’t go deeply into teaching playing techniques. The basic premise of the camp is to allow the students the opportunity to have fun outdoors while throwing and catching a football and crashing into blocking and tackling equipment.
“We don’t want to overlap on what (coaches are) teaching and say, ‘This is the way to do it,’ because everyone teaches differently,” Hyde said. “We just want those kids to go out and have fun. If they take a few basic things away from our camp and go into their seasons and translate it there, that’ll be fine. But we’re not trying to overlap the coaching they’re getting at their own schools.”
The smiles always show the enjoyment of the camp for the youngsters, of course. But the football player whose name is on the event also has a great time.
“The big thing, No. 1, is to see the community come together — how many people in the community come out to it,” he said. “No. 2, it just brings me back to what I was doing when I was little. That’s stuff I wanted to be a part of. That’s why I’m having fun out there — it brings me back. I just like to see the kids out there having fun, talking to me, talking to some of the other NFL players. That’s the fun of it — go out there, talk, joke and play a little football.”