Saturday, 4 February 2012

Exclusive Interview with Hallam Warriors RB Danny Pyle

Ahead this Sundays Steel Bowl match-up between the Sheffield Sabres and the Hallam Warriors, Double Coverage spoke to one of the fixtures main protagonists – Sheffield Hallam running back Danny Pyle.

Pyle currently leads the BUAFL league with over 1,000 yards rushing already this season in just four games. In addition, this season he has broken both the record for touchdowns and total yardage in a single game – racking up 310 yards and 7 touchdowns in just 17 carries against the Huddersfield Hawks.

 Danny Pyle sporting the new Hallam headwear.

During his time with the Warriors, he has won two Conference titles and helped his team to last year’s National semi-final, where Hallam lost to the eventual winners – Portsmouth Destroyers by a single score (8-0).

But there is one thing which the third year veteran and offensive captain has yet to achieve – a National title, something he hopes to rectify this season!
DBL: Danny, you’ve played for the Warriors for three years now, how did you get into the sport?

I’ve always been into football [soccer]. I’ve been playing since I was a little kid. I played professional football for Shrewsbury Town as a centre back before I came to University. But I got an injury and that stopped me playing football for a bit.

It was a tear in my hip, it was pretty bad. I had a year of doing no sports at all and I got put on the NHS list so it took even longer to get sorted, that put me off playing football, but it’s turned out to be a good thing to be honest as now I’m playing American football.

I was also a runner. I used to do 100 metres and athletics, so there was shot put which helps with explosion and stuff, so mainly track and field aligned with football.

DBL: How did your interest start in American Football?

I think it was really through Sky coverage just the year before I came to University, I used to watch a lot of Sky Sports and watching the NFL games on a Sunday evening when it came on Sky, watching people like Ray Lewis play the game I got really into it.

Then it was fortuitous when I came to sports at Uni, someone said do you want to try it and I said yeah I’ll give a little go. I wasn’t really that sold on it but I thought it was worth a try to try something new and that’s how it started.

DBL: So what clicked, when did you start to take it a bit more seriously?

To be honest I almost quit in my first year, I started playing at DB and that wasn’t going well I wasn’t getting the footwork down and when we played games and I wasn’t getting on [the pitch] and it clicked when our Head Coach, Richard ‘Grizz’ Batty decided to play me at running back and I think the very first play in training I ran for 40 yards and from then on it went from there and from there on in I started to really enjoy it.

DBL: In the double wing system that Hallam use, you get the ball in your hands quite a lot, what else do like about the scheme?

The deception, a lot of teams think wherever the motion goes that’s where the ball is going, that’s where the ball is going and the one time it doesn’t go there, it’s going to the house, which was why we were so successful last year I thought. Teams bite on it [the motion] so much and then you bring in the fakes and the new plays.

People think it’s easy and it looks simple as well, but then the better you are at the fakes and the mismatches and motions it makes it so much easier to run and so much more effective.

DBL: Are there any disadvantages that you think come out of running the double wing?

The tight formation, there have been people who have capitalised on the weaknesses like Loughborough two years ago and Portsmouth last year. Because it’s such a tight formation, although there is a bit of deception, there are ways of stopping it. But I feel this year we added enough to the offence that we catch enough teams by surprise, because they think we’ve just got a double wing and then we surprise them with some new stuff.    
 Pyle trying to shake off the Tyrants tacklers.

DBL: Because it’s quite a run based offense, do you ever feel pressure to carry the team and keep them moving forward?

I think this year I feel like I have more responsibility just because I am a captain, not because I’m carrying the ball on the field. If the blockers don’t block for me, it makes no difference how many times I carry the ball, so if anything it’s more on the O-Line than me to be honest, I just carry the rock and the schemes are built to make 5 yards and most people can make 5 yards in this offence.

DBL: How are preparations for the weekend going, it’s obviously a big game against your cross town rivals, the Sabres?

Yeah literally can’t wait, I’m looking forward to this competitive game, because all the game so far this season have been little bit one sided blowouts. They’re fun to a point but you want to keep challenging yourself, so I’m looking forward to that.

DBL: That’s what I was going to come on to talk about, because the Northern Conference is almost just a two horse race between you and the Sabres, do you think that holds back the teams development, because maybe you get to the playoffs and you’ve not had that many close games.

For us third year veterans, I don’t think it has that much relevance, because we know what to expect from the playoffs. It’s for the rookie’s that it’s hard, when we’re beating on teams they get a false sense of what it is like and what’s going to happen in the playoffs. So it’s a big disadvantage for them, but hopefully this game should open their eyes, so we can say this is the kind of team we’re going to be playing in the playoffs.

DBL: Against Huddersfield, you had the ball for 17 carries, 310 yards, 7 touchdowns, how did you feel after that kind of game?

To be honest I loved that game, I don’t think it would have happened if Grizz hadn’t said to me before the game ‘That was going to be my game’ he said, ‘every running back gets one game where it’s up to me. When I came out for that game, I just knew and everything just clicked’. I just loved that game.

I knew from the very first play when I went through for the first touchdown that it was going to be a good day, because I could see what the defence was giving us and I thought ok we can get yards here. I didn’t expect to get that many yards, to be honest. I remember joking about it a couple of years ago in my first year with David Saul about 300 yards and I thought it would never happen, getting a 5+ TD game never, but it clicked in that game and then what can I say.

DBL: Is it frustrating in those kind of games, where their kind of blow outs because although you’re getting loads of carries and good stats, do you feel that you’re not testing yourself? 

I wouldn’t say frustrating, you do want to be tested a bit more. I don’t know if frustrating is the right word, you do get to a point in a game like that where it’s like I want a bit more of a challenge now and that’s where we start experimenting with new stuff. But I wouldn’t say frustrating is the right word.

Us veterans, we know what to expect from those sort of games. We know how to go about our business in those sorts of games. It’s just keeping professional and doing what we need to do.    

DBL: Some people have talked about a different structure to the BUAFL league in years to come, such as a Big 10, so potentially you might be playing teams from Loughborough, Birmingham going as far south as Portsmouth for games, is that something you would look forward to if you could play for a bit longer?

That’s a tough one, in concept it is a good idea but realistically I don’t think it could work, because at Hallam we’re losing a lot of players at the end of this season and in University football a team can go from being really good to really bad in one season, depending on who you lose, so I don’t think it’s very feasible.

Something might need to be changed though because games like the one against Huddersfield shouldn’t be happening week in week out, but they [BUAFL] might have to look at different ways of doing it than that.

DBL: And even if you split the conference into a two tiered structure, how do you think you cope with the prospect of longer travel times or travelling the night before for games?

Even when we go to local games, we’re meeting at 9am in the morning to travel out and if we were going to Portsmouth for example we would have to travel out at 3am to play a game for two hours and get back late at night or stay overnight. At the end of the day we are still university students and we’ve got work to do, so getting back at stupid o’clock in the morning and going to lectures the next day wouldn’t be any help for us to be honest.

DBL: Do you think eventually the standard will eventually even out as new start-up teams become established?

It’s the same with all sports; the game is getting bigger and better in England. The more people that get interested, the better standard of players we will get in the league. It’s literally the more participation we get the better it will become, it has to. We need to get people in the gym more and a more professional attitude.

This year we [Hallam Warriors] have got more people in the gym than last year and I think we’re seeing the rewards from that.

It will get better year on year, no matter what teams are playing. More teams will come into the league, better players will come into the league and more athletes will switch sports from rugby etc into American Football.
Pyle breaking free from the Sabres defence.

DBL: The game against Sheffield Sabres this weekend is obviously a big local rivalry game for the Warriors, what does the rivalry mean to you?     

I try not to get involved in it to be honest. They’re just another team for me. It is a big game, but if you big it up too much that’s when mistakes start to happen and I’m just looking forward to a competitive game.

I’ve spoke to a couple of the other guys and they’re up for it, I’m really up for it, but I try not to get too involved in the fact it’s a derby game, because then emotion gets involved and it distracts you from what you want to do. I’m just going to stick to my game plan, I know what I’ve got to do – run the ball hard and it doesn’t matter who it’s against to be honest.

I’m hoping from last year that they will have improved the defence. Not to be disrespectful but we didn’t run many plays last year and they didn’t seem to make many changes or adjustments, but I’ve heard they have sorted that out.

DBL: What do you think the Sabres weaknesses are?

Last year the cornerbacks let them down, but I think they’ve sorted it out. I hope so anyway because I’m looking for a very competitive game and to get hit in the mouth a little bit.

DBL: You haven’t played for over a month, do you think there will be a little hangover from not having played for a while?

I’m wary a little bit of that and I’m trying not to make that happen. That’s why I’ve been in the gym a lot this past two weeks doing more running rather than weights, just so that’s not an issue, because you do worry about that a little bit, not hitting 100% in training you don’t want to run as hard as you possibly can just to avoid injury, so I’m just trying to keep fit really and hoping it’ll get out in the first two runs, but obviously it’s a big game so the occasion should be enough to bring out the performance.

DBL: Finally, the potential for you to get 2,000 rushing yards this season is on. Are you thinking about it? Is it at the back of your mind?

[Laughs] Not yet, I’m trying not to think about that kind of stuff, because I didn’t think 1,000 was on the cards for the whole season. Last year’s record I think was 1,000 and something and that was pretty hard to beat over the whole eight game season. I thought I did pretty well last season, obviously I’ve beaten that in four games.

DBL: So far in the opening four games, it’s 1,024 yards, 16 TDs off only 52 carries…

I try not to keep following the stats, I let the boys talk about it and keep my head down, so I don’t let it go to my head. At the end of the season when the stats are counted up, then I’ll have a little joke about it and a little boast session, but until then I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

DBL: Danny, thanks for your time, all the best for Sunday and the rest of the season.


  1. Excellent piece. Seems very humble. Must be special to get that many yards in four games.

  2. Hallam are a good team but it is dangerous tactics to rely so heavily on one player.

  3. Thing is they don't rely on him, he only gets 17 carries or so a game. The backs ups - rookie James Muzonda is phenomenal both when the ball is handed off and on kick off and punt returns. They have also throwing the ball a lot more through QB Jacob Muncey. They also use another rookie and Raymond Shaahu who is rapid!

  4. Seems a very impressive young man; grounded and practical. Obviously he is aided by a heavily run first and a good offensive line, but to score that often on such a small amount of carries you have to have that x-factor. Best of luck for the rest of the season young man.


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