By Will Burchfield
Kerry Hyder was talking to reporters in front of his locker as his teammates trickled in and out of the showers, singing his name.
“You can run but you…can’t Hyyyyyyde!!!”
Hyder giggled at this last lyric, happy to his core, and then recalled the last time he had drawn a double-team on the football field.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “It’s been a while, but I feel great, man. I finished strong.”
Did he ever.
Looking to improve his odds at making the 53-man roster, Hyder made quite the impression in the Lions’ final preseason game last night against the Buffalo Bills. The 25-year-old defensive end notched three sacks, proving to be no match for the second- and third-team tackles standing in his path.
With final cuts looming on Saturday, Hyder is hoping his last impression is the one the Lions remember most.
“I always try to put my best foot forward,” Hyder said. “When you leave preseason you just want to leave something fresh on their minds and I was just happy to put a stamp on my resume tonight.”
Something about the Bills brings out the best in Hyder. Something about the Bills in the fourth week of preseason, to be exact. Last year, in this exact same scenario, he recovered three fumbles – just one shy of the single-game NFL record.
This year, he stuffed a more telling category.
“Great things come in threes,” he laughed. “At least it was sacks instead of fumbles this time.”
Fumble recoveries are often the result of happenstance, a player being in the right place at the right time. But sacks are fought for and earned, through force of will as much as talent. Against Bills’ tackle Chris Martin, Hyder was long on both.
“We were just battling and competing tonight and I was able to just make some plays against him,” Hyder said.
He made plays around the edge and plays up the middle. He beat him with speed and he beat him with power. The results stood out on this occasion, but Hyder said he wasn’t doing anything different.
“I just try to play hard. [Defensive line] Coach Kris Kocurek is always preaching hustling and play hard until the end of the whistle and that’s all I was trying to do tonight,” Hyder said.
Hyder’s preseason outburst in 2015 wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the 53-man roster. But he put in his work on the practice squad and Jim Caldwell took notice.
“He’s one of those guys that loves to play. All during last year, anytime we were working offense vs. defense and he was on the little squad, he had a knack for getting to the quarterback. He’s not flashy, but his effort, desire, he’s a skills man in terms of his ability to make you miss as a pass protector. He can put some pressure on the quarterback. He’s just got a unique knack, a great effort,” Caldwell said.
That’s quite the endorsement from the Lions head coach, who suddenly has a tough decision to make at defensive end. The first four seem set at that position, with likely one more spot up for grabs. If it comes down to Hyder and 2016 draft-pick Anthony Zettel, it may be that Zettel’s pedigree wins out.
Zettel would just as soon see both of them stick around.
“He’s a great player,” Zettel said of Hyder. “He’s a unique pass rusher, he sure can get after it. He’s also a really good guy, too. He really helps you out, really talkative and stuff, and he’s a good teammate.”
Hyder, who plans to spend the weekend with his wife and daughter to take his mind off football, is doing his best not to worry about the Lions’ final decision.
“It’s not really up to me,” he said. “Like I said, I just put my stamp on my resume. If they feel I deserve a roster spot, I’m sure the big man upstairs is going to handle it for me.”
Drifting with the steam out of the showers came more of the same: