Oppermann played football, basketball and participated in track and field at Connellsville High School in the mid 1950’s.
He saw playing time at end on offense and defense for the Cokers in 1954 as a junior and in 1955 as a senior. Connellsville posted a 4-6 record in 1954 and a fine 7-2-1 mark in 1955.
“We were competitive and the teams in the county were pretty good,” Oppermann said. “Brownsville beat us and we beat Dunbar, but Dunbar back in that era had good teams and Uniontown had good teams except our senior year. I think we beat them 35-7, but that was probably an exception because there was a lot of competition amongst those squads.”
Connellsville beat Dunbar 28-0 in Oppermann’s senior year, but the Cokers against the Mules was always intense.
“That was a highlight of the schedule,” Oppermann recalled. “Dunbar didn’t have that many kids on their squads, but they were good. They were good and sent quite a few players on to college and they did well there.”
Oppermann played with some talented football players at Connellsville.
“I always look at the two years combined in 1954 and 1955,” Oppermann offered. “If you look at all those players there were probably about 10 of us that went on and played in college, guys like Jim Cunningham, Wilbur Scott, Tom Dolde, Sonny Robertucci and Ray Burkey. I played a little bit as a sophomore and saw most of my playing time as a junior and a senior.”
The Cokers were coached by Dan Galbraith at that time.
“He was a quality person,” Oppermann said of his old coach. “I really enjoyed playing for him and he seemed to go out of his way to help you become what you had the ability to become as a person and a player.”
Oppermann was named honorable mention All-Fayette County as a senior in football and also played basketball and ran track.
“I tried to run track basically just to kind of develop a little bit of speed,” Oppermann explained. “But I mostly played football and basketball.
“Uniontown was pretty much a powerhouse in basketball and we were pretty good, but we were not a contender for the section.”
Connellsville went 9-13 on the hardwood in Oppermann’s senior season.
Galbraith only coached at Connellsville for two seasons and also was the head basketball coach.
“I remember in basketball Coach Galbraith drove us to Johnstown to see Wilt Chamberlain play in a Christmas Tournament. He packed all but a few of us into his little Ford car.
“He did things like that trying to give us the big picture of what competition is all about. He did that our junior year,” Oppermann said.
He was a two-time All-Section choice in Basketball.
When Oppermann graduated from Connellsville in 1956 he had a few scholarship offers.
“Going into my senior year I was still only 16-years old,” Oppermann stated. “I had a couple of offers from Wyoming and Toledo and my dad told me if I was serious about playing college football I should go to prep school for a year and develop a little bit more and get a year older.”
Oppermann decided to go to Massanutten Military Prep School in Virginia.
“It was probably the best thing that ever happened as far as having more opportunities and more scholarships,” Oppermann opined. “It was a smart thing for me to do. It was good for me academically and I played football, basketball and baseball for one year.
“How I wound up then at Penn State – back then they played a Fayette-Washington County All-Star football game in August and I was on the Fayette County team after my senior year in high school. I was co-captain of our team and had a good game.
“What I didn’t know was that Penn State freshman coach Earl Bruce was in the stands that night looking at somebody else who had been recruited to go to Penn State from Washington County. So Penn State started following me in prep school and that’s how that all came together.
“I had narrowed it down at the end to Penn State, Duke and Virginia Tech. I just liked everything I saw about Penn State Coach Rip Engle and his staff and the fact that it was reasonably close to home.”
Oppermann was a on the Penn State frosh squad in 1957. One of the highlights was beating the Navy freshman team led by Joe Bellino.
“We only played two games as a freshman against Pitt and Navy,” Oppermann remembered. “The football team we had our freshman year was just fantastic.
“Unfortunately several of the fellows did not make it academically and we lost Red Worrell during off season when he was electrocuted in a tragic accident.”
Oppermann did not letter in 1958 as a knee injury almost wrecked his career. During his junior season in 1959 the Nittany Lions went 9-2 and Oppermann had 11 receptions for 212 yards. Penn State defeated Alabama in the Liberty Bowl 7-0.
“What most people don’t realize is when we beat Alabama it was the first bowl game Penn State ever won,” Oppenmann offered. “We hadn’t played many bowl games and back then there weren’t that many bowl games.”
Oppermann was elected captain of Penn State’s 1960 squad. That team overcame a 2-3 start to win five straight games, including the Liberty Bowl over Oregon 41-12.
Oppermann had 13 receptions in his senior year for 131 yards and one touchdown and did most of the kicking on field goals extra points and on kickoffs.
The highlight was Oppermann’s performance in the Liberty Bowl against Oregon. He was named Most Valuable Lineman in the game and led Penn State receivers with four catches for 49 yards, he booted four extra points and made half a dozen tackles. He also was a key blocker as the Lions rolled up 420-yards of total offense.
Oppermann has a lot of respect for his head coach at Penn State, the late Rip Engle.
“Rip was a phenomenal man – a real gentleman” Oppermann stated. “He truly let his assistant coaches do their own thing and he gave them a lot of latitude, but if something was going wrong he would step in to make sure that it got corrected, but I will always remember him – he was just a phenomenal person.”
Oppermann played in the 1960 North-South Shrine game in Miami, FL and was voted Most Valuable player after setting a game record with 10 receptions as his North squad beat the South squad 41-14.
“At the end of the year the scouts were making their contacts and finding out who was interested in playing pro ball,” Oppermann recalled. “I had my knee operated on in June and the doctors had told me to maybe make it my last year.
“So I wasn’t even considering the possibility of pro football. After the North-South game several scouts called – the Steelers, Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams and I was tempted to give it a try, but I needed another semester to graduate and I was going into the service and so I just said no and walked away from the possibility.”
Looking back Oppermann enjoyed his days at
“As it turned out it was the right decision,” Oppermann said. “The right place for me and I’ve stayed close to the University basically all of my adult life and tried to help a little bit where I could.”
Oppermann graduated from Penn State in 1961 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. He then went into the service and served in the United States Army (Artillery) from 1962 until 1964, achieving the rank of First Lieutenant. Following his honorable discharge from the United States Army, Opperman joined the Missouri National Guard from 1964 to 1965 and left the Guard with the rank of Captain.
From 1966 until 1976, he worked as the National Sales Manager for the L.E. Smith Glass Company located in Mount Pleasant, PA. He was recruited away from L.E. Smith by the Imperial Glass Corporation of Bellaire, OH, in 1977. There he served a two-year stint as Vice President of Marketing. Oppermann rejoined the L.E. Smith Glass Company in 1979 as its President.
After his retirement in 1987, Oppermann decided to turn to investments and money management and joined the Parker Hunter, Inc., investment management firm as an investment executive. In 1991 he was made Assistant Vice President, Vice President in 1992 and Senior Vice President in 1994. He was with Janney Montgomery Scott for nine years after the merger with Parker, Hunter. He retired in 2014.
Oppermann, 75, resides in Connellsville with his wife of 50-years Beverly Jenson Oppermann, he has reared two daughters, Joanne and Carolyn. He remains very active in the Boys Scouts and does a great deal of volunteer work.
Personal accomplishments include the Eagle Scout designation, Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, Silver Beaver Award recipient, James E. West Fellow, Outstanding Fellow of the Penn State Fayette Campus, 1997, and the Penn State Alumni Athlete Award, 1977.
Connellsville and Fayette County are home and Oppermann has fond memories of growing up
“It was such a bustling town back then,” Oppermann explained. “As a boy growing up I remember on Saturday night’s I would stay with my grandparents at a little apartment in town and my grandfather would take me up to a confectionery store every Saturday night and that was just a ritual for several years and it was such a bustling community back then.”