Micah Hyde is a three-year starter in the secondary for Iowa, where he has played in every game since his freshman year. He's also developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten and a team leader for the Hawkeyes. After a midseason arrest on misdemeanor charges, Hyde was briefly stripped of his captaincy but had that status reinstated this week. I recently caught up with the senior, who ranks fourth in the league in passes defended, for this week's Friday Q&A segment:
How is the mood of the team after the three-game losing streak?
Micah Hyde: Like you said, it's been tough the last couple of weeks with those losses, but to be honest we're just looking forward and excited to get out there against Purdue. They're going to come in and be ready to go, and the game is at Kinnick [Stadium] so of course we'll be up for that game and ready to protect the home turf. We're not really looking in the past. We're just looking for our new opportunity in the future.
You're 4-5 and need two more wins to get back to another bowl game. How big of a motivational factor is that, especially for seniors like yourself?
MH: We know we still have an opportunity to go to a bowl game. That's a big thing. But it's one of those things you really can't pay attention to the next couple of weeks. You've kind of just got to focus on this week and winning this one, or your grasp is just going to keep slipping until it's out of your hands.
The defense has been pretty solid most of the year, and your former position coach, Phil Parker, is in his first year as defensive coordinator. How would you evaluate how the transition has gone under him this year?
MH: I think he's done a great job. I've been with him in the past and I know he's a go-getter, and he has brought that to the whole defense. We've had some very good defensive games where we watched film on Sunday and thought we could have done this or that better but were very proud of our performance. But we've also had some games where we've watched film and been like, "Wow, what was going on out there? We could have played much better." That's what happens when you play in the Big Ten. You might have some good games and then bounce back and have a horrible game. It's all how you deal with adversity, and hopefully this Saturday we can bounce back from last Saturday at Indiana and as a defense play well.
I want to take you back to a couple of weeks ago, when you chased down Northwestern's Venric Mark from behind for a tackle. That surprised a lot of people. Take us through how that happened.
MH: It was just one of those moments in a game. We had a good punt and had them pinned in, and then he made a good play to just bust through. Coach [Kirk Ferentz] and Coach Parker always talk about high-effort plays, and turning a negative into a positive, so I just ... ran. That's all it came down to. People always joke around with me and say my 40 time might not be the best. But I've always told people that I'm "field fast." I don't really pay attention to the numbers on the clock. When I get on the field I feel like I'm a lot faster.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said you made some NFL money with that play.
MH: [Laughs]. I don't really pay attention to that stuff. That stuff will work itself out pretty well. Like I said, I was just trying to make a positive out of a negative.
Kirk Ferentz said after that play that he has considered putting you at receiver because of your speed, but that he needs you too much at cornerback. Have you ever had serious discussions about flipping over to the offense, if even just for a play or two?
MH: Nah, the majority of time it's just been joking around. I always talk junk to the receivers and even the quarterbacks, saying I could throw better than them. It's just me being a competitor out there and just trying to get my guys going. But I'll do whatever the coach asks me to do, and if it was at receiver, I'd love to do that and catch some balls. But right now he has me at corner where I've been pretty much my whole career, so I'm trying to make the best of it.
How does a guy from Ohio end up at Iowa?
MH: We have a couple of coaches from Ohio who know the area very well. For me, after meeting the coaches they were there every week, whether it was being at the school or calling my cell phone. They were always getting a hold of me. They set up a real connection, a real family atmosphere. And we do have a lot of Ohio guys on the team, so maybe that's what brought them in, too.
Your high school coach (Tom Grine) played at Iowa. How much of an influence was he?
MH: He told me about Iowa City and stuff like that. But to be honest, and I don't think anybody believes me when I say this, he backed away from the whole thing. He helped me out with the recruiting process, but he wasn't biased at all and didn't want to say anything over the top about Iowa, because he didn't want people to say, "Oh, he just went there because of his head coach." He wanted me to make my own decision.
Some coaches this week talked about how difficult it is now for defensive backs to avoid being called for pass interference. There were some big pass interference calls in games last weekend. As a defensive back, how hard is it now to play good defense and not be called for a penalty?
MH: It's tough. You want to go out there and be as physical as possible, and it's kind of hard when they're seeing it as pass interference. As a DB, it's hard. The receivers on my team always joke around about how their position is hard, and we always come back and say you guys know exactly the route you're running, so it's easier for you guys. Definitely as a DB, you have that bias where, even watching it on TV, you're like, "That wasn't a flag." But it does seem like it's getting carried away, like the littlest things ... because as a DB, you try to get as much of an advantage as you can on a receiver and when you do that, they throw a flag. It's difficult, but it just comes along with the game.
Do you think the game is leaning more toward offensive players now?
MH: Obviously, fans love to see points on the board. That's a big thing in sports nowadays, and with the high-powered offenses and spread offenses, stuff like that. The hardest thing for a DB is just to go for a jump ball, a fade down the field. A majority of the time, it's either a flag or they're going to catch the ball.
You went through an off-the-field incident a few weeks ago. I thought the interesting thing about that was how you handled it, apologizing for it publicly, and then how you were embraced by your team. What did you learn going through all that?
MH: To be honest, that whole situation was a blessing in disguise. Obviously, you don't want something like that to happen and it was just a stupid mistake on my part. But Coach always talks about how you just have to worry about who's on your team, your friends and your family. After that happened, I found out who really had my back. Of course, my family was there, my friends and my teammates. The best thing for me was practicing. I didn't worry about any of that. I was just here talking football with the guys on my team. So I didn't really notice all that negative stuff. But when you go to class you get all these mean looks and stuff like that. But it was a blessing in disguise because I could care less what anybody has to say about me or my team. At the end of the day, it's all in house, all in our circle.
You've played a lot of football at Iowa and now are guaranteed just three more games. Do you start to cherish things more as the end draws near?
MH: A couple of weeks ago, we had an honorary captain come in: Bruce Nelson. And he just talked about cherishing the moment. He said when you get done with football, you don't remember the practices, you don't remember the lifting and stuff like that. You remember the moments you have with your friends, the littlest times. He said when you're eating a meal with each other at training table or whatever, take a couple of minutes to cherish everything that's going on. I've been trying to do that. You're going to miss college football and it's coming toward an end. I'm just trying to cherish everything and soak it all in.
Finally, I noticed your birthday is on New Year's Eve. Given that you've usually been at a bowl game during that time in college and people have other plans that night anyway, how much have you ever gotten to celebrate your birthday?
MH: My freshman year, we were down in Miami and played on like January 5th, but on New Year's Eve coach had us in the hotel and we couldn't do anything that night. The last couple of years we've been at the Insight Bowl and it was played on the 29th and the 28th, so I was mostly flying back and couldn't really celebrate. But I'm used to it. I've been in basketball my whole life, and since New Year's Eve is a big party day, my coaches always had early morning New Year's Day practices and conditioning. So I've been used to it my whole life. I usually celebrate it on New Year's Day, watching the Rose Bowl.