Name: Byron Henry
Age: 23 (24 on August 22)
Occupation: Consultant at EY
Hometown: Houston, Texas
College: University of Notre Dame
First year with the Lions: 2015
Position(s): Scrumhalf, flyhalf, wing, fullback
Current role with the Lions: 7s captain, co-director of ad sales and sponsorship for 2015 Hell Gate 7s tournament
This summer, a newcomer to the club grabbed the captain’s armband for the 7s qualifier squad. Byron Henry joined the Lions with some real bona fides, having played for the U.S. under-17s in 15s alongside current Eagles Seamus Kelly and Will Holder, and going on to compete for Notre Dame, representing the Fighting Irish at the College Rugby Championship in Philly in 2011, 2013 and 2014. This came after finishing eighth and fourth nationally in 2007 and 2008 with his high school club in Houston, Texas.
When did you start with the Lions and what motivated you to join the club?
Early 2015. First action was Four Leafs. I was introduced to the team through Derry Herlihy, who I played with at Notre Dame. He was introduced through a fellow ND alum and former Lion, Francis “Mule” Camillo.
What’s your assessment of the 7s qualifying season?
There is a lot of potential. We have loads of talent. We saw glimpses of our success in individual games against some of the top teams in the country. We just need to continue working and playing together under the tutelage of Coach Greally in order to cement a position as a top team in this competitive division.
What are your comments on how we progressed against some of the most competitive 7s sides in the country?
I played against a lot of these guys coming through high school and college. A lot of great athletes out there for every team we compete against. We started out really hot at Newport and I think that came directly from the early start we had this season. We need to progress and grow as the circuit continues. We seemed to maintain, whereas the top teams really progressed and peaked further into the summer.
What were your observations of the national club 7s?
I love the momentum we are building as we are getting closer to Rio. The athletes are starting to develop into rugby players, which is key when we know we have some of the best talent in the world. That talent coupled with leadership of players who have been playing the game their entire lives will definitely make a splash in world rugby next summer.
What worked this summer for the 7s program? What would you improve? What did we learn as a team?
The early start this season helped us gain an initial edge. We were out practicing well before any team held their initial training sessions. While we had the momentum going in, maintaining our high fitness level and further developing our skills and teamwork is critical to competing for a top-four spot, which is where we believe we can be and something we fell short of this year.
The Lions have always been a club made up of a broad mix of nationalities and characters. How did this year’s 7s squad live up to that tradition?
We imported an Australian for the summer, so that helped. Wardy fit in immediately and helped us immensely on the field. We found Giorgi, the Georgian — still looking for a translator there — but he’s a beast on the field. I can’t tell you where Hubert is from.
What makes the Lions special to you?
The best part of the sport is the camaraderie. What makes the Lions so special is how genuine and accepting the team is. That was immediately apparent at my first practice and what has kept me involved with the club.
What 7s teammates impressed you the most this season and why?
Kevin Morgan — the kid can’t legally drink a beer yet but he has an incredible knack for being in the right place at the right time. You can always count on at least one or two interceptions from him that go the length of the field.
What has been your personal highlight?
The whole experience has been great. After a couple of bad injuries in college I thought about retiring, but playing with the guys and interacting with the whole club makes it impossible to give up the sport. That, and scoring the winning try after an 80-meter break and a chip-to-self to get to the bowl championship game at Hell Gate.
How much of this high-performance experience from the 7s program do you think will carry over into the 15s season?
While there isn’t as much space on the field, hopefully our skills continue to improve and develop throughout the 15s season. That is something that is easily transferable between the two games and something that always makes you a better rugby player. Unfortunately, I am currently traveling on a weekly basis so I cannot make practices and subsequently games during the fall.
When do you start preparation for the 2016 7s season and what are the goals?
Hopefully as soon as we can get out on the pitch. It helped us tremendously this year.
Is it true that you are a direct descendent to Revolutionary War hero Byron Henry?