Arguably Northwest Missouri State's most famous football alum, Dave Tollefson showed up at Friday's 19th Annual Shawna Zech Memorial Golf Classic without any new Super Bowl rings to display or a new NFL landing spot to discuss.
One summer removed from basking in the glory of a second Super Bowl title with the New York Giants and securing his most lucrative NFL contract with the Oakland Raiders, Tollefson's once ascending career is suddenly in a state of flux.
With the start of training camp only a month away, Tollefson is still a free agent, awaiting a call from an NFL team that could come at any time or not at all.
"There's no real timetable," said Tollefson who completed his Northwest career in 2005. "It's just a matter of being ready. That's kind of been my motto my whole career. It's really nothing new. It's not time to worry yet. I've talked to a number of teams that are interested. It's just a matter of the right time and place to come. I'm just kind of waiting."
Tollefson spent last season with the Oakland Raiders as a back-up defensive end, appearing in 15 games.
He combined for just eight tackles—his lowest total since his first season with Giants in 2007—and a half-sack.
He had a career-high five sacks the year before with the Giants.
The Raiders went just 4-12 under first-year coach Dennis Allen and decided to part ways with Tollefson and several other veterans in March.
"It was tough for me personally," said Tollefson. "We went back home where I grew up. They're kind of in a rebuilding phase. It didn't go how I hoped it would. Any time you don't win it sucks. That's the bottom line in what I do. I did enjoy myself and I'm ready to go wherever the next opportunity is."
Tollefson says he's had conversations with other NFL teams in the last few months, but nothing more.
One possibility is a return to the Giants where he played from 2007-2011 and was part of two Super Bowl champion teams. Tollefson had his most productive year with the Giants in 2011 before signing with the Raiders.
"Obviously, I have some great relationships up there," said Tollefson. "They have a ton of respect for me. I was a big contributor on that team. It's a possibility without question. I got to keep my options open and same with them. It definitely wasn't a messy divorce by any means. It was amicable, so maybe we'll get back together."
Now a seven-year NFL veteran, Tollefson turned 32 in May, putting him at the tail end of what's considered an athlete's prime.
Page 2 of 3 - Tollefson joked Friday that he's got "10-15 years" left and insists he's nowhere close to being done.
"I feel great to be honest with you," said Tollefson. "This is probably the best I've felt in my career. I feel like I'm in a groove right now. I feel strong and fast and powerful. I'll hopefully play this year and then we'll make plans for next year."
Without an NFL team to report to, Tollefson has been doing all of his off-season training in his residence of Omaha, Neb. where he moved last summer.
He compares it to the lockout shortened off-season of 2011 that wiped out mini-camps and OTA's.
While he'd prefer to be working out at an NFL facility, Tollefson is enjoying one of the major perks of being at home more often.
"I got two young kids at home and from that aspect it's been nice to spend time with them," said Tollefson. "I didn't have a dad growing up, so that's a real important part of my life is being a good father and a husband. I haven't missed a beat. Obviously, the year after the lockout was the best year I ever had. I kind of used that as a blueprint this off-season to be ready for when that opportunity comes."
Tollefson took a break from his off-season training regimen Friday to make his second straight appearance at the Shawna Zech Memorial Classic.
He and his wife Megan, a former Northwest softball player, were one of the Championship Sponsors for the event.
Tollefson remains a loyal supporter of Northwest football and attended the team's spring game in April.
If it works out, he'll try to come back for a game this fall.
"I live up in Omaha, so it's not a far drive," said Tollefson. "As often as I can, I visit with these guys. Obviously, coach (Richard) Wright is like a dad to me. Me and him have a great relationship. There's just so many guys down here that mean so much to me. The relationships are priceless. When you can come down and enjoy yourself, it's worth it every time."
Tollefson was one of two former Bearcats at the Zech Classic that were drafted and played in the NFL.
The other was Seth Wand, a third-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2003.
Three more recent Northwest graduates could add to the school's NFL presence this year.
Tyler Shaw (Arizona Cardinals) and Travis Chappelear (Cincinnati Bengals) signed as rookie free agents, while Chad Kilore signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tollefson is particularly close with Kilgore because both were in training camp with the Raiders last fall. Kilgore made it to the final round of cuts before being released.
Page 3 of 3 - "Chad's got a special place in my heart," said Tollefson. "He lived with me in Oakland for a little bit and he's a great friend of mine. I'm so happy for him because he reminds me a lot of myself in my younger days in Green Bay. I thought I should've made the team. I thought Chad should've made the team. He's kind of underestimated how good of a player he is. I'm rooting for him for sure. We talk quite a bit. I try to give him pointers as a young guy that I could've used when I was coming up. I love it. The more Bearcats in the NFL, the better. It will make the league a better place."
Tollefson badly wants to remain the leading member of Northwest's select fraternity of NFL players.
But if that contract offer never comes, Tollefson says he'd be content with calling it a career at this point.
"That's the worst-case scenario," said Tollefson. "It's been such a blessing to play as long as I have. Obviously, I walked on here at Northwest and had a fantastic time when I was here. I continued to play a kids' game for a king's ransom However it ends up, I'm ready for the next phase in my life. If it ends up I'm not playing again, then I'll just move on. I'm ready man. That's my motto. I want to keep playing."