The University of Alabama at Birmingham football is back! The Blazers rose from the dead like a phoenix from the ashes with an impressive on-field record, high game attendance, and giving the town of Birmingham a football program to believe in again. This rebirth process certainly wasn’t easy though. Lyle Henley, The Director of Sports Performance for UAB, not only had to piece this together from the ground up, but he had to change an entire culture and mindset to get it to the level it is today. One could say, he has been the most instrumental piece in resurrecting their football program. He took us through how he got to his current position, what it means to him to be a part of the rebirth of UAB football, and how Legend Fitness equipment has transformed his team’s workout regimen.
Lyle’s road to UAB.
Lyle’s experience and background in strength and conditioning training certainly speaks for itself. He began his career playing football for Louisiana Tech University and moved on to become the Grad Assistant at The University of Alabama from 1999-2000. In 2001, he moved back to LA Tech and worked as a member of the strength and conditioning staff till 2005. Lyle took his well-rounded knowledge of elite strength and conditioning training and ventured out into the private sector and started his own gym, The Athlete Factory. Over the next nine years, The Athlete Factory grew to multiple locations, and word started to spread about its success. Lyle had the opportunity to sell his growing start up to D1 Sports Training. He stayed within the organization and in 2012 he was named the Director of D1 NFL combine training, a position he excelled in for the following 4 years. He worked with 53 guys on current NFL rosters, 17 of which were first-round NFL draft picks. He trained a number of the top athletes in the country during his time at D1. Mark Barron, Paxton Lynch, Gabe Jackson, and TJ Yeldon are just a few players that went on to have notable NFL careers due to Lyle’s training. Finally, in 2016 he returned to the college ranks and was named the Director of Sports Performance for UAB, where he has helped resurrect their football program.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the rebirth of UAB football?
“I’m a huge fan of coach Clark (Bill Clark – Head Football Coach) and I’ve followed his success and had a good relationship with him. When he brought up the UAB football program to me I knew something he was a part of would be legitimate and successful. He sold the program as something that had never been done before, and something that will probably never be done again. So when I came up and checked everything out, I saw they didn’t have any of the facilities. But Coach Clark sold me on the vision, and filled me in on some of the players they were looking at, and these guys were looking for second chances and looking to come back into this program. So it was a rebirth for them as well as the program, and being someone who believes in second chances, that aspect of the program interested me. But it wasn’t just the players that were inspiring, it was the community. They raised around $60 million dollars, all done through private donations and local businesses, so we had the whole city behind this movement.”
What were the challenges you had to overcome?
“The main thing we knew we had to overcome was the previous culture around here, and change it to a ‘never say die’, winning attitude. It was so devastating when the program ended, right when the players finally started to believe in something, everything got yanked out from underneath them. So, my argument coming in was how can we get that fire to win again and how can we get these guys to believe in something and trust in what was going on. Our job as a staff was to understand things are different now, and one challenge from a staffing standpoint was to fill certain individual, specialized roles where the staff would collectively be strong across the board. During our process of building the staff, we had to think, ‘Okay, is this guy a speed guy, is he more of an Olympic guy? Is this guy more of a movement guy, is he an energy guy, are they the brains behind the operation and a methodical thinker? Are they good with software technology?’ Because of this we have a great staff and the best thing that I can do is delegate those jobs and determine where I can put these guys so we can be the most successful and efficient team.”
Why did you decide to go with Legend Fitness equipment?
“I was aware of Legend when I was at D1. The equipment is very heavy duty and very state of the art. So when it came time to start looking for the right equipment for our program at UAB, Legend was already a name I was familiar with. We have a 45,000 sq. ft. building and only 3,500 sq. ft. dedicated to the weight room, and we were also going to have a covered pavilion. So I was thinking how can we utilize this space, and I began looking at different companies that made multifunctional racks. I was then approached by David Ball from Legend Fitness and I explained to him what I needed. He invited me down to Legend HQ for three days where I sat down with the team and laid everything out. They delivered above and beyond. When we went to see the prototype I was like a kid in a candy store. The greatest thing about it is that it’s functional, I’m able to have 150 guys in the group and everything is so well put together and thought out that we were able to knock our workouts down from an hour and a half to 40 minutes.”
How has Legend Fitness equipment helped you prepare your athletes for the season?
“Kind of my quote I tell the guys is that we are as efficient as a NASCAR pit crew now, and I mean you see how those guys work on those pit stops. That’s what we’ve been able to do with this equipment, and anytime a strength coach can become more efficient and get more done in a limited amount of time that is the greatest accomplishment you could have.”