On the wall in Lyle Henley’s office are the pictures of nearly 20 first round NFL draft picks, athletes that Henley trained earlier in his career when he was a private strength coach.
Many of the photos are of players Henley’s began training when they were in youth football, and he was fortunate to have the opportunity to mold them as both athletes and young men as they pursued their dream of going pro.
For Henley, the Director of Sports Performance at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), building relationships with his athletes on earned trust has been fundamental to developing them to their full potential. More importantly, it’s crucial to developing good teammates and better people – which has always been Henley’s long-term goal.
In the short term, Henley hopes to develop UAB football players that will continue the resurgence of the once-dormant Blazer football program. And in the process, he gives them a great chance to add their names to the growing list of players he’s helped to the NFL.
A Hungry Warrior Hunts Better
In recent years, UAB football has been a comeback story in the making. After being shut down in 2014, alumni donors brought the program back, and after two years of fundraising, recruiting and rebuilding, the Blazers went 8-5 in 2017.
“It was easy to play the underdog role these last couple of years,” says Henley. “They shut you down, nobody believes in you, they picked us 130th in the nation, dead last going into that first year. So that was the easy war cry. After going 8-5 in our first season, then it was, ‘well, you had 35 seniors, we’ll see how you react to losing those guys.’”
In 2018, the Blazers went 11-3, winning the Conference USA Championship.
“The story writes itself every time,” says Henley. “Now that these guys have been to the Promised Land, they don’t want to leave, they want to go back.”
Henley’s approach to developing his players is built around sound process and curating leadership qualities as his kids grow with the program.
“We’re all about the process,” Henley says. “The journey to get there is what’s important. I love watching these guys grow during their journey. Our motto right now is ‘A hungry warrior hunts better.’ The kids know that the extremely hard work they have to go through, it pays off.”
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