Naaman Roosevelt’s not giving up on his NFL dream.
The Buffalo native and former Bills receiver has been out of work since being released by his hometown team on Aug. 31, but remains steadfast in his belief another professional opportunity will come.
To get ready for that, Roosevelt has been working out six days a week at Proformance Sports Training in Amherst’s Northtown Center under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach John Opfer.
“I’m still working, knowing that one day it’s going to come, sooner or later. I feel like whenever I get that chance, I’ll be ready to go,” Roosevelt said this week between heavy breaths at the end of a workout.
Roosevelt’s focus in his workouts has been improving his speed. In Opfer, he’s got a coach who specializes in just that, along with the added bonus of a previous relationship. Opfer worked with the University at Buffalo football team Roosevelt was part of in the 2008 season as a speed coach.
“I had formed a relationship with him then. I think the frustrating part on my end is I that I haven’t been able to get my hands on him and then progress him from things we made improvements on back in ‘08, just because there’s not the time in the season,” Opfer said. “Here, with this opportunity, what’s different is Naaman realizes ‘Wow, this got taken away from me.’ Now, he’s more willing and open to changing some of the little things that maybe were nuisances to him before. That little percent of a movement of a mechanical flaw now has big opportunity to change him as an athlete in the NFL.”
Opfer’s workouts are indeed highly specialized.
“What we found with Naaman is that he’s externally rotated. He almost wants to hockey stride through each foot plant and so what we did is we found that there’s a major weakness in the inside of his groin and what we would call tibialis anterior muscle (near the shin bone],” Opfer said. “When we got those two things to straighten out, we realized he’s losing a lot of forward push off of his stride.
“For Naaman, he’s got phenomenal hands. He’s got above-average speed, but for him to be in that upper caliber, he’s got to get faster. When we really took at the biomechanics, that’s what we found.”
The results have been there in the past two months.
Opfer said Roosevelt, who checks in at 6-foot and 200 pounds, has shaved one-tenth of a second off his 10-yard time, and nearly two-tenths of a second off his 30-yard time.
“That’s almost like covering an additional nine feet. That’s significant gain,” Opfer said.
“Going outside, running routes and things like that, I definitely feel a lot faster getting in and out of breaks and stuff like that,” Roosevelt said.
Since being released, Roosevelt said his agent has fielded some calls from teams in the Canadian Football League interested in his services, but he’s not ready to go that route just yet.
“It’s about confidence and believing in yourself with this thing,” he said. “I believe in myself and everyone else does. I’ve got a lot of support. It’s believing and knowing I can do it. That’s why I’m out here every day just working and working.”
Roosevelt played in a total of 16 games over the last two seasons with the Bills, making 16 catches for 257 yards last season. He scored his only career touchdown on a catch-and-run that covered 60 yards against the New York Giants in Week Six of last year.
Roosevelt had a strong camp, but did not survive final cuts, when the Bills kept fewer receivers than expected.
“After the past two or three years I’ve been in the league, nothing’s a surprise any more,” he said. “Anything can happen at any time. It was definitely a disappointment, when things don’t go your way, you want to know, why? What’s the reason? It’s a numbers game in the NFL. They kept two kickers and not as many receivers, so I respect it.”
Roosevelt admitted his confidence was shaken, but points to the NFL experience he does have as proof he can perform at the game’s highest level.
“I did question myself. Is it me that’s not doing good? Am I messing up? You definitely start thinking and asking yourself if there’s things I’m doing wrong. You ask yourself am I really supposed to be playing? Can I do this?” he said. “The past couple years, with whatever opportunity I had, I thought I performed. It’s about getting a chance to go out there. I know I can make the best of them.”
When he’s not working out, Roosevelt keeps himself busy with music. He and his former high school teammate at St. Joe’s, Domonic Cook, are part of a local group that have put out a mix tape.
“That’s definitely a hobby I’m in love with. We do a lot of music,” Roosevelt said.
But it’s clear that Roosevelt, who will turn 25 on Christmas Eve, would prefer to keep it as a hobby, with the NFL once again being his full-time job.
“Naaman’s played above his athleticism and got into the league. Now his athleticism is catching up with his skill set. His understanding of route running, his understanding of where defenses have holes in them, his hands — those are all qualities that he already had,” Opfer said. “Now we’ve given him a chance to getting his body right and get his balance right. We’re looking at some of the mechanics he got away with in high school and college. At this next level, they needed to be cleaned up, and that’s exactly what we’ve been able to do.”