MISSOULA, Mont. - After a brief stint with the Tennesee Titans and the NFL, former Montana Grizzly tight end Steven Pfahler turned to training local Missoula area athletes as a temporary gig.
"I started doing this just for the time being to get a job and hit the real world," said Pfahler over two years ago inside the Sister Rita Mudd Activity Center where he first started individually working with kids.
But over the past two years Pfahler Sport Specific got its own logo, it's own gym, and now Pfahler can't imagine another way of life.
"I never saw this coming," said the Frenchtown native looking around his very own gym. "I was planning to do this for a little bit and then I was just going to be a strength coach at a college. The thing that kept me here was my attachment to the kids and I couldn't leave them."
While Pfahler won't be leaving his clients, the kids will be leaving him this month. That's why he held a barbecue at the gym for his senior class of athletes, nearly all of which are heading to a campus to become a college player.
"He just really transformed as an athlete I think," said Missoula Sentinel graduate and incoming Lady Griz freshman Maddie Keast. "You know before I'd never really been in a weight room and I wasn't in all that great of shape."
"Steve just really taught me what hard work was and what commitment meant," said Sentinel graduate Kagen Khameneh who will be joining the football team at MSU Northern this fall. "The differences it really makes and how it really makes you become a better athlete and a stronger person."
Pfahler's schedule has completely molded around the kids he trains, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's a big deal I mean when you see him at your games. He's helping me in the gym and then he's coming to watch my progress so he actually cares about what he's doing," explained Missoula Loyola grad Justin Anderson who has committed to play basketball at Columbia Basin College.
"This senior class has truly become like a family to me," said Pfahler. "I would do anything at the drop of a hat for these kids."
Luckily for Pfahler one thing these kids don't need is money for college. He counts sixteen of his seniors that are headed to college with athletic scholarships. And Steve remembers every single moment when one of his seniors committed.
"When they come tell me that they've earned their scholarships, there's nothing that makes me feel better."
"I'll never forget when I told him that the Griz offered me and that I accepted," recalled Keast. "I mean we sat there and cried on the phone for five or ten minutes."
"He was super excited and he had a smirk on his face and you know that he's thinking what he's doing is working," added Anderson.
"I called him right away and he said I'm so proud of you," remembered Khameneh. "This is where hard work gets you and it's an incredible feeling."
Although these athletes will be adopting new strength coaches and lifting programs at their colleges, they all agree that Steve is the first person they will call for advice on or off their campus during the transition into collegiate athletics.