BIRMINGHAM – The official interview lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour. It took Lyle Henley much less than that to know that he wanted to be part of Trent Dilfer’s first staff at UAB.

“I knew within five minutes that Coach Dilfer was the guy I wanted to work for,” Henley said.

Official word came down on Thursday that Henley will retain his role as the Director of Athletic Performance for UAB Football. Jason Jones, the assistant director of athletic performance, also is being retained. The strength and conditioning staff will also include Bryant Novick and Andrew Reinkemeyer.

“Lyle Henley is a guy I have heard about for years, but did not know him,” Dilfer said in a university press release. “I quickly came to find out that he is one of the best in the business. He had massive success here under Coach Clark’s and Coach Vincent’s teams. He is a guy who isn’t just a strength guy, but is also a speed guy and a nutrition guy. He is a master in human development and we are in the business of developing the student-athletes to their fullest. We think Lyle is the best person for the job.”

By any measure, Henley played a critical role in what happened since UAB football returned to the field in 2017. He took over the strength and conditioning program in May of 2016. He was a big part of building teams that won 50 games, had three bowl wins and captured a pair of C-USA championships in the past six seasons.

For Henley, just like with anyone else working in the UAB football program last season, it was a nervous time when there was a change at the top. All of them understand that’s the nature of college football, but it doesn’t make things any easier.

“It’s very tough,” Henley said. “It’s tough on your family, it’s tough on your spouse, it’s tough on your kids. Your kids have made friends, your wife has gotten used to a certain routine. Being a wife of a coach at this level is extremely tough. You never know. That’s a tough deal. It’s tough from a career standpoint. Let’s be honest, you’re trying to put fishing lines out there. You say, ‘Hey, I don’t know what’s going on.’ It’s a strange process.”

He had interest from other programs. He had options. There was no doubt, however, where Henley wanted to be.

“I have a lot of pride in this program, a lot of pride in this university, the players, the strength staff,” Henley said. “We’re very proud of what we accomplished. We felt like we had some unfinished business. We didn’t like the way things turned out this year, even though I’m super proud of the job these guys did, the way they played. I’m proud of the way they came together under difficult circumstances. The (departing) staff was unbelievable. But, we felt like we want to keep this thing moving in the right direction and help accomplish things that haven’t been accomplished here before.”

Jones has been with the UAB program since 2020. The former walk-on football player at the University of Alabama worked on his alma mater’s strength staff from 2015-2019 before earning the Bill Walsh internship with the Green Bay Packers. Novick is a former UAB offensive lineman who was a strength staff intern at UAB in 2019 and assistant strength coach in 2020 and 2021. He returns after serving as the Director of Sports Peformance for football at Long Island University this past season. Reinemeyer, a former South Alabama tight end, was an analyst with UAB this past season.

Familiarity certainly helps with continuity.

“The No. 1 thing you need, as a strength coach, is buy in from your players,” Henley said. “Anything you can do to get that. The No. 1 thing it takes, every time, is time. No matter where you go, no matter who you are, as a strength coach, it’s going to take time to get buy in from all the players. We’ve established years upon years of buy in here.”

Another important piece of the puzzle, for Henley and the strength staff, was quickly getting to know what Dilfer wants out of the strength program.

“If you don’t have a prior relationship with the coach, the first thing you’ve got to do is figure out what does his culture want to look like,” Henley said. “What are the things that are important to him? What are the things that are important to the messages you want to get across to the team? What is the mindset you want transitioning into the offseason to the spring and the summer, preseason and in season? It might be some different tactical things. You want to see what type of players they’re looking at, it might be a different body type. There’s ton of things, especially when you don’t have a prior relationship. That has been a really exciting process, just getting a crash course with Coach Dilfer.”

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