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How This NFL Player Became Iowa City's Retail Champion Former San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding had some plans for this hometown.

This story appears in the August 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Tailgate Clothing
Nate Kaedling at downtown's Tailgate Clothing.

When an NFL player retires, it's not uncommon for him to return to his old stomping grounds and open a sports bar -- specializing in cheap beer, memorabilia-littered walls and nostalgia of glory days past.

Former San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding, however, had more ambition than that. When the Pro Bowler retired in 2013 after nine seasons, he returned to his native Iowa City and enrolled in the University of Iowa's Tippie Executive MBA program. Along the way, he helped start ... well, OK, he started a bar. It was Pullman Bar and Diner, a locally sourced joint that uses Iowa farm ingredients. But he also launched Tailgate Clothing's Iowa City store, a vintage T-shirt shop that American Eagle purchased for $11 million in 2015. Then last fall, he went large -- becoming the retail development director of Iowa City's Downtown District.

"I am a big believer in a vibrant, street-level culture," Kaeding says. "The cool coffee shop, the unique, independent retail store -- these businesses represent a city." He has a bit of home-field advantage: There are already 280 businesses in the downtown corridor.

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