“Three catches, three tackles and a cloud of dust.” That’s how John Opfer (BA ’99) sums up his UB football career. Yet he is the proud owner of an NFL Pro Bowl jersey, given to him by Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack.
Though perhaps the most accomplished player in UB’s gridiron history, Mack is just one of many local athletes Opfer has helped improve at his Amherst, N.Y., shop, Proformance Sports Training. The UB alumnus has operated the business in the Northtown Center, across the street from Alumni Arena, for over a decade, putting Buffalo athletes on the map—as one sign on the wall says.
In addition to Mack, who still trains with Opfer in the off-season, Branden Oliver, Naaman Roosevelt, Alex Neutz and Joe Licata all trained at Proformance before signing NFL contracts. “What brings me back here is John’s work ethic and his mindset of what he wants guys to be,” says Oliver, who is in his third year with the San Diego Chargers. “Every time I come back here, I feel like a kid again. My body’s so fresh.”
The basis of Opfer’s training methods is a keen eye for dysfunctional movement patterns and a deep knowledge of how to correct them. He also has obtained several certifications, including the highest one given by USA Track & Field. “He’s just so effective in so many ways at building up your body to what it needs to be,” says Mack.
Opfer’s career path was unlikely. Born with hip dysplasia, he was prescribed leg braces and corrective shoes in his formative years. It wasn’t until his father got him involved in competitive cycling that Opfer was able to straighten his hips out and unlock his athletic potential off the bike.
He developed into a standout soccer and football player. His time at UB didn’t provide much on-field success, but it laid a foundation. He earned his degree in exercise science and went on to work for the Cleveland Indians, Buffalo Bills and the University of Tennessee training staffs before returning to UB in 2001 as the NCAA’s youngest strength and conditioning coach. That job lasted one season, after which Opfer started training two former UB players out of his garage—the genesis of what would become Proformance.
“From 2004 to now, I’ve never marketed once,” Opfer says. “I’ve just always tried to figure out what is going on with the athlete walking through the door and how I am going to maximize him or her.”