When the 49ers signed defensive lineman Kerry Hyder Jr. to a one-year contract one week into free agency, it was not a move that drew a lot of attention.
It became apparent months later that he would win a spot on the 53-man roster when defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke of how much 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek believed in Hyder.
The two men previously worked together with the Detroit Lions, and Kocurek was not shy about expressing his fondness for Hyder, the player and the person. Saleh referred to Kocurek having a "man crush" on Hyder.
“Kris is my brother for life,” Hyder said.
Kocurek convinced the 49ers to sign Hyder, and Hyder made everyone look good. And, now, he is set to cash in as a player whose signing this offseason will attract plenty of attention.
Hyder appeared in 16 games, starting the final 14 of the season, and registered a career-high and 49ers-best of 8.5 sacks. He ended up playing the fifth-most snaps of all the 49ers’ defensive players. Among the team’s defensive linemen, only Arik Armstead played more.
Hyder owes to the man who helped get him in a 49ers uniform.
“Me and Kris have a tight relationship, man,” Hyder said. “We talk all the time and, you know, he did stand on the table for me. He did want me here. Without him, I probably wouldn’t have been her this year.
“I came in ready, and I did not want to let him down. That coach has always been there for me, and he always wants me to do well, so when he gave me the opportunity, I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure I didn’t let him down and I didn’t let the team down.”
Hyder, who turns 30 in May, is scheduled to hit the free-agent market this spring firmly established as a player who can help a lot of teams due to his versatility and ability to play every down.
Hyder said he would like to continue to play for the 49ers. But the best opportunity for him and his family might send him to another destination.
“I’ve never been in a situation in free agency where I wasn’t just hoping to be on a team,” Hyder said. “So this will be a different year for me. I won’t be an under-the-radar signing. I’ll be a guy who’ll be top on the market, so I really don’t know what to expect.
“I’ll take it in with my family and work through those details. But Kris is a wonderful coach. He’s close with me and my family, and I absolutely love being a 49er. I want nothing more than to continue this relationship.”
Hyder had eight sacks in 2016 with the Lions. But injuries prevented him from building momentum. Then, he had a difficult time getting back into significant roles with Detroit and Dallas.
He said he always believed he was capable of being a good player. Hyder would constantly tell himself -- and even write it down on paper -- how good he was, just for affirmation.
“I’d always do things to remind myself that I can do things in this league, that I am a good player,” he said. “I’m just happy to put it on tape again this year and so everyone else can see it.”
If the 49ers are not able to re-sign Hyder, he could have another attractive possibility if Saleh ends up with a head-coaching job. Hyder said he could see himself continuing to play for Kocurek and/or Saleh.
“I just know that he’s a great coach and I would love to play for him, no matter where he’s at — if he’s a D-coordinator here, or if he’s a head coach somewhere,” Hyder said. “Coach Saleh has my vote.”