How do you build a winning culture virtually from scratch? How do you lay the physical and mental foundation for a championship football team when, for two years, you don't play a single game?
Lyle Henley understands. UAB's director of athletic performance will share his insight as one of the distinguished presenters at the Birmingham Sports Performance Coaches Clinic on June 1.
Henley played a key role in building UAB's 2018 Conference USA championship team in the program's second season back on the field after a two-year shutdown. He didn't just mold the Blazers in the weight room into a physically dominant bunch that set a school record for rushing yards and finished third in the nation in sacks.
As the best strength, conditioning and performance coaches do, Henley also helped Head Coach Bill Clark establish a winning culture of toughness and accountability.
Henley described UAB football's culture this way: "Blue collar, come to work, bring your lunch pail every day."
It's more than a motto. The 2018 Blazers set 21 school records during their 11-3 season, winning the program's first conference title and capturing its first bowl victory. More than a dozen UAB players signed as NFL free agents after the 2019 NFL Draft.
It was evidence that Clark's plan, which Henley helped develop and put into action, works.
"It's a sense of pride for us that we gave our community an immediate return on their investment in us," Henley said.
The former Louisiana Tech tight end, who played on the 1997 Bulldog team that upset Alabama, already had established himself as a builder in the private sector when Clark hired him at UAB in 2016. Henley had founded The Athlete Factory, which he built from the ground up and later sold to DI Sports Training, where he served as Director of NFL Combine Training.
Henley has trained 55 athletes who've made NFL opening-day rosters and 24 first-round or second-round draft picks. Those numbers are sure to grow as the UAB program builds on its success.
"It's very appealing to help establish a culture and a winning attitude," Henley said of his role, but the daily grind of "keeping the culture alive year round" continues.
"Can we maintain a championship level?" he said.
Don't bet against them.