Offensive Lineman, 2005-2009
The highlight of Dace Richardson’s Iowa career came on a rain-soaked night in September of 2009. The senior and his Hawkeye teammates were facing fifth-ranked Penn State in State College.
The Nittany Lions opened the scoring with a long touchdown pass less than two minutes into the contest and led 10-0 after the first quarter. A sell-out crowd of over 100,000 fans and the weather were giving Iowa the business.
The Hawkeyes hung around and trailed 10-5 after three quarters. Then, they made their move.
They took an 11-10 lead early in the fourth quarter when defensive end Adrian Clayborn blocked a punt, picked it up and rumbled 53 yards for a touchdown. Running back Adam Robinson added a 13-yard scoring run and Daniel Murray booted 31-yard field goal, completing the 21-10 upset.
That victory propelled them to a 9-0 start before they lost quarterback Ricky Stanzi during a setback against Northwestern. An overtime loss at Ohio State the next week cost them the Big Ten title. Still, they finished 11-2 with a victory against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Richardson earned first-team all-Big Ten honors from league coaches. He captured the honor despite missing the final five games after injuring his leg during a last-second win at Michigan State.
Injuries derailed what could have been an even better career. It likely cost him a shot at the NFL. He finished up his playing days with the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers in ’12.
“I ended up getting a concussion and figured it just wasn’t worth putting my body through it if I wasn’t getting an attention from the NFL. It was time to give it up,” he said.
These days, Richardson, his wife, Alyssa, and eight-month-old daughter, Arrow, reside in Waukee, Iowa. He cares for the child during the day.
He spent most of the last five years working as a day-trader for his uncle. He decided he needed something more stable while helping raise a young family.
Richardson thought about a rewarding career. It led him to law enforcement. He applied for a job with the state troopers and the Waukee Police Department. He hoped to follow in his grandparents’ footsteps.
If it works out, he’ll enter training this summer. Then, he’ll be able to fulfill a goal.
“I was looking for something where I could help people and help communities and felt like that would be a great fit. I wanted to be able to help people that can’t help themselves,” he said.
“It was something I kind of did at the University of Iowa when we would help people and go visit people in the hospital.”
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It’s become a controversial profession. He’s looking to alter perception by getting involved.
“With what some people think about the police, I felt like I wanted to make a change. I wanted communities and minorities to see that the police department is getting a bad rap for a small few. The vast majority of law enforcement is helpful. I felt like the best way to create that change was to join the department,” he said.
He discussed the dangers of serving with his wife. They decided that the positives outweighed the negatives.
The couple met while he was playing for the Barnstormers. They married two years ago on April 9.
Despite the health issues, Richardson found it hard giving up football. He has missed the relationships formed within the sport. He found life-long friends while at Iowa.
Wheaton (IL) Warrenville South High teammate Tony Moeaki along with guys like Rafael Eubanks and Broderick Binns bonded with the Hawkeyes.
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“My fondest memories at Iowa are the ones I made with my teammates; telling jokes during camp in between practices. Just being with those guys and the camaraderie was what I enjoyed most,” he said.
Richardson felt that during the memorable game at Penn State in ’09. That night, he was tutoring a freshman left tackle. It was Riley Reiff, who went on to be a first-round draft pick. He just finished his sixth pro season.
“I’m definitely proud of him,” Richardson said.
Richardson arrived at Iowa with much fanfare as a key member in Iowa’s most highly-ranked recruiting class of the coach Kirk Ferentz Era. A four-star recruit that Rivals ranked as the 54th-best player nationally regardless of position chose the Hawkeyes ahead of offers from USC, Tennessee, Michigan and others.
“There were a lot of flashier schools but they put an emphasis on offensive line. I knew at Iowa I would get a great education and also a football education,” Richardson said.
He and Moeaki played in the Army All-American game in high school. Then they ended up with the Hawkeyes.
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“I thought he was headed to BYU. His family is Mormon and I just figured he’d follow that path. I’m glad he didn’t,” Richardson said.
Ferentz’s reputation for producing pro offensive linemen played a big part in Richardson said decision.
When he left the program, Ferentz had been leading it for 11 years. He just completed Year 19.
“I’m not surprised at all with the way he runs his program. It’s based on fundamentals and hard work. In this day and age of football, if you have that type of mentality, it’s going to work well,” Richardson said.
“We may not always have the best talent, but we’re going to outwork you. He’s always been a great coach and he develops talent. He takes no-name recruits and turns them into NFL Draft picks.”
Richardson faced some quality defensive linemen during Hawkeye workouts. Clayborn, Kenny Iwebema, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard, Mitch King, Mike Daniels and others lined up across from him.
“Practices were probably the hardest competition that I ever went against in my football career. It made the games feel easy. It developed me into a better player,” Richardson said.
He stays connected with the program, attending a couple of games each season. He also visits the football complex when he can.
The Hawkeye loyalty runs deep but is challenged at times these days. Alyssa is an Iowa State alumnus as are some of her relatives.
“She’s not a big sports fan but I’m working on converting here into a Hawkeye fan. She wears the gear sometimes. Her family tries betting my daughter to wear Iowa State gear. It’s a constant struggle,” he said.