Dace Richardson held a job he enjoyed in an area of the country that appealed to him. He'd traded in his shoulder pads for a job with one of the nation's most recognizable rental car chains.
The former Iowa offensive tackle hadn't played football in almost two years. Earlier this month, the Arena League's Iowa Barnstormers called Richardson's agent. They invited him in for a tryout.
The Barnstormers signed the former all-Big Ten performer on the spot. He played in the game the week of the tryout and another one since then.
"I just love the game of football," the Chicago-area native said. "I had a regular job that I liked, but in the back of my mind I was always thinking that I could still do the football thing. I watched guys that I played against that I felt I was just as good as or better. I just felt like if I got the chance, I could do it."
After playing his final season at Iowa in 2009, Richardson attempted to make the NFL. The New York Giants worked him out, but then cut him. He returned to Iowa City and was employed as a waiter.
Setbacks were nothing new to Richardson. He missed almost two years of his Iowa career to injury, which included a season-ending ankle surgery that occurred midway through his senior year.
"My body just wasn't fully healthy," Richardson said of his first round of pro football. "I was coming off of an ankle surgery. I wasn't fully heeled. I needed about a year to get right."
Family helped keep him focuse on returning to football. Former teammates, Tony Moeaki and Pat Angerer, did, too.
"I've been in constant contact with Tony and I've talked to Pat (Angerer) here and there," Richardson said. "They just told me to keep my head up and keep focused. That encouragement has helped a lot."
Richardson suited up for his first action on the gridiron in nearly two years on July 7. The Barnstormers knocked off the Kansas City Command, 54-27, on the road.
"It felt great," Richardson said. "It's great to be back out there and hit people and being physical. It's definitely something that I missed."
Richardson was protecting a fellow Iowa football alum in quarterback Brad Banks, who finished second in the 2002 Heisman Trophy balloting.
It's definitely different," Richardson said of the arena game. "Everything is fast-paced. One thing I like about it is there is a lot of one-on-one (match-ups). You go against the guy in front of you. It showcases your pass-blocking ability."
Richardson said when he's not working on Saturdays, he's in front of the TV watching Iowa. He hopes to return to Iowa City for a game this season. He's trying to keep track of the Hawkeye coaching moves, which includes his old offensive line coach, Reese Morgan, now tutoring the defensive line.
"I talked to (Morgan) about a week ago and we were talking about all the coaching changes," Richardson said. "The guy that coached me is now the D-line coach and a guy (Brian Ferentz) I played with is now the offensive line coach."
Richardson returns to the field with a finish line in sight.
"The goal would be to get an opportunity to work out for an NFL team and possibly get an invite to camp," he said. "Right now, I just need to work on my fundamentals to put myself in position to be ready if I do get invited to an NFL camp."
The best part for Richardson these days is being able to play without injury.
"I feel like I'm almost where I was health wise as when I was coming out of high school," he said. "I'm still working to get quicker and faster, but I feel like I'm right there where I want to be - playing football again."