The Inspiring Athlete

Branden Oliver at 2015 graduation.

Branden Oliver on graduation day with UB running backs coach Matt Simon. With them are Simon’s wife Lisa (far right), and stepdaughter Madison Wells-James—“Bo’s biggest fans, win or lose,” says Simon.

The NFL’s Branden Oliver returned to UB to earn his degree—and send kids a message.

'Bo' Knows

Branden Oliver came back to Western New York in fall 2014, carrying the football for the San Diego Chargers in pursuit of a victory over the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was a proud moment for Oliver, as well as his family, friends and anyone associated with UB athletics.

Oliver—or “Bo,” as he is known on campus—returned again at the start of the spring semester, this time to UB, carrying his textbooks in pursuit of the final credits needed for his bachelor’s degree in sociology.

It was an equally proud moment when he walked across the graduation stage in May.

“That was always a goal of mine, to come back and finish when I was done playing football,” Oliver says by phone following a Chargers training camp practice. Speaking to youth groups in the San Diego area last year motivated Oliver to finish his schooling now. “I didn’t want to waste any more time,” the second-year running back says. “If you get the opportunity to do something great and honor God, you have to do it.” The NFL Continuing Education Program paid Oliver’s tuition. The opportunity to resume training with close friend John Opfer (BA ’99) at his Proformance facility near the North Campus only increased Oliver’s desire to come back.

“He felt like a hypocrite getting in front of kids and telling them to stay in school when he didn’t have a degree himself,” says Opfer, who worked with Oliver six days a week during the semester, then had him over for Sunday dinners. “He wanted to tell kids that he walked the walk.”

Excerpted from At Buffalo magazine. Read the full article.

UB Known in the NFL

A number of NFL players also suited up as UB Bulls. Check out a list of NFL drafted and undrafted players below, and find a list of all our professional athletes in the Fan Zone

Name Drafted by Played for
Branden Oliver  Undrafted Chargers*
Craig Guest  Undrafted Bills/Jets
Drew Haddad  Bills, 2000  Colts/Bills/Chargers
Ed Ellis  Patriots, 1997  Patriots/Redskins/
Gerry Philbin  Lions, 1964  Lions/Jets
James Starks  Packers, 2010  Plays for Packers*
Jamey Richard  Colts, 2008  Colts
Josh Thomas  Cowboys, 2011  Cowboys/Panthers/Jets/
Khalil Mack  Raiders, 2014  Raiders*
Kristjan Sokoli  Seahawks, 2015  Seahawks*
Mike Newton  Undrafted Colts
Naaman Roosevelt  Undrafted Bills/Browns/Lions
Omari Jordan  Undrafted Panthers
Ramon Guzman  Undrafted Colts
Steven Means  Buccaneers, 2013  Buccaneers/Ravens/Eagles
Trevor Scott  Raiders, 2008  Raiders/Patriots/Bears

*Indicates players who are currently active in the NFL.