When Anthony Gair is given an opportunity, he rises to the occasion.

The Iowa safety from 2013-2016 spent most of his collegiate career as a backup, but played well in a “Next Man In”-type role.

He made his first career start against Pittsburgh in 2014, stepping in for injured safety Jordan Lomax, and ended up recording an interception to seal an Iowa victory.

Then there was the Michigan game last season. The fifth-year senior was called upon after starting strong safety Miles Taylor went down with an injury in the first series. Gair made seven tackles and helped hold the Michigan offense to just 103 passing yards in Iowa’s 14-13 upset victory over the third-ranked Wolverines.

“He’s done a great job,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Gair’s performance against Michigan. “To have that opportunity, you talk about a showcase moment for him, that’s something he’ll remember all his life.’’

Gair saw action in 46 games as a Hawkeye, recording 54 tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception. Although he didn’t start many games, his performance last year against Michigan validated his hard work.

“It was honestly the most fun time I’ve had at the University of Iowa,” he said of the Michigan game. “It was one of those things where I think God had a plan — almost like a sign of hope. I’ll be able to tell a story to guys who are thinking about not playing or transferring. Continuing to work hard and not giving up eventually paid off for me — stay strong, focus on your end goal, and always have hope.”

That motivation and drive to succeed is serving him well off the football field, as well.

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Gair, 22, is currently in graduate school at Iowa pursuing a sport and recreational management degree, but in his free time he comes up with ideas. He earned an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies and an Entrepreneurial certificate, and was one of four Iowa students who had the chance to pitch a product idea to Daymond John — one of the star’s of the ABC TV show Shark Tank.

That entrepreneurial spirit has already led to one of his ideas blossoming into a business.

The former Hawkeye is the creator of Puzzle Greetings — an interactive greeting card in which the recipient has to put puzzle pieces together to form the message. The idea came about when the former Hawkeye was thinking about ways to connect with his family in Plano, Texas.

“I wanted to come up with a fun way for people to reconnect with friends and family members,” Gair said. “I decided to try to reinvent the traditional greeting card. With Puzzle Greetings, you’re literally and figuratively connecting. You send this to someone and they have to interact with it and work to see the message. It’s a fun and memorable way to tell mom or grandma that you’re thinking about them.”

Currently the Puzzle Greetings website offers 11 different card options, and one day Gair hopes the business will grow enough that consumers will be able to customize their own Puzzle Greeting message. The cards are currently available for purchase online, at Iowa Book in Iowa City, and at the Coralville Hy-Vee.

The early success of Gair’s product has been no surprise to his former Iowa professors.

David Hensley, a professor in the TIppie College of Business, taught Gair in one of his undergraduate entrepreneurship courses. Hensley said he was impressed with the former Hawkeye’s poise and work ethic – whether it was on the football field or in class.

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“Anthony is inquisitive, driven and motivated, and I think he will likely be a serial entrepreneur,” Hensley said. “He is always looking for opportunities and trying to identify solutions. This should serve him very well in whatever path he chooses.”

Now, Gair’s focus is on Puzzle Greetings. He participated in Iowa’s Pro Day and hopes for an opportunity in an NFL camp, but if that doesn’t work out, he’s committed to making his greeting card idea a success.

Hard work gave him a chance to show what he could do on the football field. He’s hoping that same mindset will open doors in the business world.

“Ideally, I’d love to have this business take off and see people using Puzzle Greetings to connect with friends and family around the world,” he said. This is a long-term goal, and I know it won’t come easy, but hopefully people will see the creativeness behind the product and experience it with family and friends.”