"I had to get help for my depression, so I entered into some mandatory counseling sessions," Pyle said. "Now I can see that it worked out better for me, but at the time I felt like an outcast because you can't outwardly show anybody that you have that kind of condition." The counseling proved to be a huge success for the 6-foot-4, 310-lbs. lineman out of Adairsville, Ga. By the time spring drills rolled around, Pyle was ready to return to the squad.
"It really helped me," Pyle said. "My parents always say how proud they are and what a difference they see in me from the counseling. The coaches and the team have been very supportive, too. Really it has turned out to be a blessing."
Though he has 21 career starts under his belt, Pyle admits that his return to the rigors of the gridiron has been a struggle for him physically. After he allowed his conditioning to slide last year, he has had to work his way back into playing shape but feels ready to go for the opener against Wake Forest this coming Thursday.
More importantly, Pyle seems to have won the struggle of earning back the trust of his teammates through a combination of hard work in the weight room and dedication on the practice field.
"At first some of them were skeptical, because they didn't know why I had left last year," Pyle said. "We had a meeting at the beginning of this year, and they wanted to know why. Some of the seniors thought I was just going through the motions to be back out here, so I took that as a challenge."
At the same time, Head Coach Bobby Johnson does not think of welcoming Pyle back into the fold as a major issue—certainly a far cry from any sort of Ricky Williams-type drama that such a sudden departure can cause.
"I think that whole situation was a bit overblown," Johnson said. "The guys were not that skeptical of his intentions. In fact, I was really proud of him for admitting he had a problem and getting it taken care of. That's not an easy thing to do, and I have a lot of respect for him."
Now with less than a week to go before the first game of the season and senior lineman Nigel Seaman recovering from injury, Mac Pyle finds himself slated to start at right guard. While his hold on the starting position may be tenuous, it is certainly a testament to his remarkable turnaround from less than a year ago. "Mac is going to be a big help with our offensive line," Johnson said, "because his experience provides the chance to develop some good depth at those positions."
While many consider the offensive line to be somewhat depleted this year after the loss of their dominant left side in tackle Justin Geisinger and guard Brian Kovolisky, Pyle feels that this year's unit might be the closest-knit in years.
"Right now the group is the most together it's been in a while," Pyle said. "With Brian and Geis last year, they were older and already had their own thing going, so it was tougher for us younger guys to bond with them as a unit. But now we've all come up together in the system, so we're more of a family group."
Regardless of who ends up starting up front on game day, the Dores are certainly glad to have this former starter ready to return to the trenches.
Mac Pyle (VM/ Whitney D.)