If his career ended tomorrow and the money somehow ran dry, Micah Hyde figured he could survive just fine on one skill learned from his youth: gardening. It's true. When he was a kid growing up in Fostoria, Ohio, he worked on a farm owned by retired principal Ken Watson.
Watson never married and had no children, so he treated kids in town like they were his own. He paid extra attention to the Hyde clan after their father abandoned the family. Hyde's mother, Pamela, worked for a local spark plug manufacturer while trying to keep food on the table and raise four children.
The kids helped where they could. Hyde made a few bucks mowing Watson's lawn during middle school before graduating to bailing hay, chopping wood and growing vegetables. It was hard work, as you can imagine, but the experience gave him an education for a lifetime.
Looking back, he wouldn't change a thing.
"It's something I can teach my kids someday," Hyde said Wednesday after practice with the Bills. "It's about feeding your family. I'm not going to say I'm an expert at gardening, but I have the basic fundamentals of how to start. No matter how much money you have, no matter how poor you are, you can always feed your family."
No wonder why Hyde, 26, has looked so hungry during his brief tenure in Buffalo. Fans who are still unfamiliar with the safety, who signed a five-year contract worth $30 million after four seasons with the Packers, will come to appreciate his homespun personality and underdog mentality.
Fostoria (pop. 13,276), located 90 miles north of Columbus, 40 miles south of Toledo and around the corner from nowhere, is like many small towns in Middle America. Kids play in the park while trains pass through town on their way to somewhere else. The town revolved around sports with the Hyde family at the center.
His older brother, Marcus, was a terrific athlete who played football at Michigan State. Older sister Meghan and younger sister Jada were athletes. Micah spent his childhood rounding up neighborhood kids for football, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and whatever other games they invented along the way.
You see him in the NFL now, but he wouldn't have had a chance without the people back home. His friends' parents, knowing Pamela was working and the old man checked out, took turns carting Hyde to practices and games. All these years later, he remembers the names of every person who contributed to his success.
"It takes a village. It really does," Hyde said. "I could probably name 20. Ken Watson, that's a name that will forever be in my heart. He took me on my college visits. … My best friends' parents, they basically raised me. My mom had a huge part, making sure I was doing the right things and academics and all that stuff.
"But even something as simple as taking me on vacation, it taught me how to get away and see the bigger picture. There are bigger and better things out there than Fostoria. That's when it started to click. There were a lot of people who got me to this point and made me the man I am. And I love them for it."
Nice guy, Micah Hyde.
So far, he's also been a darned good player. He was the savvy veteran the Bills needed when the new regime decided to blow up the secondary. Hyde immediately assumed a leadership role and has been a key figure on a feisty defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown pass in the first three games.
"It's huge, man," safety Jordan Poyer said. "He was in Green Bay for four years, so he knows what it takes. There are no egos in this room, and he's not an ego guy at all. He's just a huge addition for us. He's always asking questions, always trying to get better. He's a great teammate."
Translation: Hyde is loaded with intangibles.
Still, the same knocks have followed him since high school. He was under the nose of Ohio State, which took a pass in his slight 6-foot frame. He landed at Iowa. There were 158 players selected in the 2013 draft before the Packers took him in the fifth round. Green Bay had him for four seasons and made no attempt to keep him.
"Too small, too slow," Hyde said. "Someone like Sean McDermott, he understands that guys like myself are underrated or they've been the oddballs or the underdogs. He knows what he has to do to get it out of him. He's had that role his whole life."
At first, Hyde wasn't sure he made the right decision. Any lingering doubts disappeared when he assessed the Bills' secondary after Sammy Watkins was traded. He found three starting defensive backs who also were underestimated, plus rookie first-round pick Tre'Davious White.
Hyde was at the top of his game last season. If you recall, the Packers were 4-6 and left for dead before winning eight straight games and reaching the NFC Championship game. Poyer became available after playing in Cleveland. The Rams made E.J. Gaines expendable in the Watkins trade.
"Nobody wanted us," Hyde said. "Green Bay let me walk and didn't offer me, not one cent. Everybody on the back end, we looked at each other and said, 'We gotta get this done.' Nobody to this day thinks we can get the job done."
Hyde can expect a busy day Sunday in Atlanta. The Falcons aren't just Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Atlanta has one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL, too, with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman behind a polished offensive line. Freeman rushed for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and was sixth with 248 yards in three games this year.
Hyde might still be traumatized from a 44-21 blowout loss to the Falcons in the conference title game. Ryan shredded the Packers for 392 yards and four touchdowns on their way to the Super Bowl against the Patriots. Hyde was sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered in the first quarter.
One way or another, the Bills will be better for their experience. If you work hard enough and nurture something long enough, it's bound to grow. It was a life lesson Hyde learned while working on the farm, something he'll pass along someday when he becomes a father. He's engaged to Amanda Kamiksisian. They plan to marry next summer.
"When I have kids, hopefully someday soon, me not being in their lives is not even an option," he said. "I don't understand that. I'll be 100 percent the best person, the best father, the best husband, I can be. I'm looking forward to it."