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O'HARA: After breakout year, Hyder taking nothing for granted

Kerry Hyder's career arc has taken an upward turn to a point where he can be an advisor, not a participant, for players taking part in the Detroit Lions' rookie minicamp later this week.

"Go fast — try to make an impression," Hyder said Tuesday when asked what advice he'd give the rookie class. "You've only got a couple days to show that you've got something.

"I'd say give it your all, and leave it all on the field."

Hyder has been there and done that – three times, in fact. He went to one minicamp with the New York Jets in 2014 and two with the Lions in the last two years before finally winning a full-time roster spot.

It was a long climb to get the opportunity he cherished and worked hard to achieve, and Hyder took full advantage to emerge as one of the surprise success stories of last season. That was in the entire NFL, not just the Lions.

The third time in minicamp proved to be the charm for Hyder. With a position switch – from defensive tackle to end – and a weight loss for the start of the 2016 offseason, Hyder became a pass-rush force for the Lions. He led the team with eight sacks, playing all 16 games with two starts.

There were some obvious benefits to making the active roster – not the least being a substantial increase in income that allowed Hyder and his wife, Jasmine, to take their first vacation together and spend five days in the Bahamas.

Despite his new status, Hyder has not returned to the offseason program this year thinking he has anything handed to him.

"I treat my days the same," Hyder said. "I try to stay humble and keep working. I can't dwell on last year. It's a new day. You can't make the team in May. I'm still working hard."

Hyder wasn't kidding when he said "make the team." He's taking nothing for granted.

"Nothing about this has been easy for me," he said. "I don't plan for it to start being easy. Hey, man, it's cutthroat. I keep working every day like it's my last."

Until last year, every day could have been Hyder's last. After being undrafted out of Texas Tech as a defensive tackle, he went to the Jets' rookie camp in 2014 and ultimately made their practice squad. He was signed by the Lions to a futures contract after that season, and he went to their last two rookie camps.

There was one change last year. He already was under contract, and he reported early with the rest of the veterans before participating in rookie camp.

Head coach Jim Caldwell has said often that Hyder made an impression with his work ethic and hustle while on the practice squad. After the 2015 season, it was suggested to Hyder that he lose weight and convert to defensive end, where he could use his quickness and agility as a pass rusher.

As indicated by his sack total, the position switch paid off for the Lions' defense, and for Hyder. Having a full season under his belt – one that's a notch or two shorter because of the weight loss – gave Hyder a different approach to the offseason. He studied himself on video to see how he can improve, and he did not have to focus on weight loss in the physical conditioning program.

What obviously remained consistent was Hyder's attitude. He wants to build off last year's performance.

"Absolutely," Hyder said. "I can't stay in the same spot. I want to keep going, try to get better each day. I can't live off those eight sacks. I have to get better – continue to grind and push for my teammates.

"What I learned from this business, it's more like 'what have you done lately?' Last year is last year. I'm going to treat this like a new year, like a new day -- just try to get better each day.

"Last year was my first time playing defensive end. I can definitely build on that film."

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