GREEN BAY, Wis. -- To understand why Micah Hyde is the football player he is, to grasp why he delights in his role as the Green Bay Packers’ plug-and-play, do-anything jack-of-all-trades, to appreciate why he doesn’t care about how his lack of a clear-cut position impacts his impending free agency, you have to go all the way back to the fall of 2006, to the high school fields of northwest Ohio.
“He literally never left the field,” says Tom Grine, Hyde’s coach at Fostoria High School. Then, just in case he wasn’t clear, Grine repeats himself. “The last three years he played, he literally never left the field.”
It’s true. Although Hyde became the team’s starting quarterback as a freshman the previous year, it was during his sophomore year that his do-it-all mentality took hold. That fall, Hyde played quarterback on offense. He played cornerback and safety on defense. He returned both punts and kickoffs. He punted and kicked off. And he kicked field goals and extra points.
Even when it came to choosing a sport, Hyde couldn’t. Although he finished his football career having rushed for 3,443 yards and 46 touchdowns and thrown for 7,864 yards and 65 TDs, he was a four-year letterman in three sports -- football, basketball and baseball. He simply wanted to do it all.
Some things never change. In Green Bay, Hyde can play both safety positions and both inside coverage positions on defense as well as return punts and kickoffs on special teams.
“Whatever I can do to help this team win,” Hyde says. He pauses, gauging reaction. “I’m serious. It may sound a little cliché and guys say it all the time, but honestly, that's all I care about.
“I like doing what I do. If I can help the football team out any way I can -- whether it’s any position in the secondary, special teams -- I enjoy that. That’s my honest answer. Some people might say that’s my downfall because I’m not a starter at one specific position. But I think the guys around the locker room appreciate what I’m able to do.
"I look at it as a blessing.”
It hasn’t always felt that way, however. As a rookie fifth-round pick in 2013, Hyde found himself on the wrong end of Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt’s unvarnished -- and, in Hyde’s opinion at the time, unfair -- critiques more than once.
“He had me learning corner, nickel and dime at the same time. I’m walking out of practices with a few [mental errors] and he’s getting on me in the film and I’m like, ‘Dude, if these guys had the same positions I did, they’d have more than I would,’” Hyde remembers. (He’d add safety to his job description in 2014.) “But looking back, it was the best thing for me -- learning those positions right away -- and now whatever position I’m thrown into, I can operate with the best of my abilities.”
It also won Whitt’s respect, which isn’t easy. Now, in the final year of his contract, Hyde has an ardent supporter who believes he is an irreplaceable piece of the Packers defense -- despite not technically being a starter.
“He can play everything on defense outside of that defensive line. It just gives you great comfort as a coach to know if something does go wrong, if you do have an injury, if you have somebody not playing as well, this guy’s the wild card where, ‘Hey, we can put him here, here, here and we can adjust around him,’” Whitt says. “Now, is he a starter [caliber] at a certain position in certain places? Yes, he has that ability. He’s one of our top players. That’s why we play him and that’s why we find roles to get him on the field.
“We’re blessed to have him. He helps us in many different ways, not just on the defense but what he does on special teams and what he is in that locker room. Whenever we ask him to do something, whatever role we put him in, he not only does it, he excels at it.”
Coach Mike McCarthy admits he may not have done Hyde any favors early on.
“You get a young guy that’s bright, and you think you can throw him in there and he’s going to handle all of it,” McCarthy said. “But he’s also human too. Having Micah play all the different positions, I think it kind of hurt him [early in his career] at some positions. You’ve got to watch that. That’s the old saying: You don’t want to be jack-of-all-trades, master of none.”
In Sunday’s win over Detroit, Hyde filled in at safety for an injured Morgan Burnett and recorded a team-high 11 tackles. A week earlier, with No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields sidelined by a concussion, Hyde played in the slot. And after this week’s bye, wherever the Packers need Hyde on Oct. 9 against the New York Giants, that’s where he’ll be, battling.
“One of the things that really impressed us about him is, he’s an ultra-competitive guy in a quiet and humble way. He just gets things done,” says Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, the lone Big Ten coach to recruit Hyde. “He wasn’t a four-star, five-star recruit -- just like he wasn’t a first-round pick. He’s not flashy. He’s just awfully productive.
“In this era, you don’t see many prospects coming out who are multisport guys. But those are the guys that everybody looked to on their teams. Basketball, football -- it didn’t matter what they were doing. And Micah was that way.
“He certainly would have been the best receiver on our team had we played him on offense, which we talked about. He would have been our best receiver to play for us in the last 15 years. He was just too valuable to us on defense.”
Hyde admits that he’s hoping the Packers see that value come free agency in March. He understands that he might be better off financially if he found one position and focused exclusively on that. But that’s not who he is.
“I think it’s definitely good,” Hyde says. “I can play special teams. I can play defense. Shoot, if they throw me in at receiver, I’ll even try to do that. I see it as a blessing.
“I’m not thinking about that contract stuff. That’ll all play out and it will all be a part of the game at the end of the season. I definitely see it as a blessing. I take pride in that.”