WAUKEE, Iowa — Protection is always key to a big performance on the football field. As a college senior at the University of Iowa, Dace Richardson was among the best at protecting his quarterback and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. Now Richardson’s protection zone has widened to the entire Waukee community as a police officer. 

“It’s the sense of community. We stand by each other and we root for one another,” said Richardson.

Richardson has been with the Waukee Police Department for five years. In the last three of those he has been doubling as a school resource officer within the district. Richardson said, “Mentoring, counseling and the last piece is law enforcement.”

On Fridays, Richardson is often suiting up on gameday but just in a different uniform — keeping the peace from the sideline. “For the most part, I just sit back and relax and enjoy the atmosphere on Friday night.”

The first-ever meeting between Waukee and Waukee Northwest on the football field on September 1 is expecting a crowd of record levels.  “Just for the community standpoint for Waukee this is a great thing to happen,” said Richardson.

Whether an Orange Bowl victory or defeating Michigan, Richardson has the big game experience to lend.  He said, “Playing in Happy Valley against Penn State was crazy.”

For Richardson, his most important wisdom comes in more meaningful ways.  “The one thing I always ask them is how are their grades? How are they treating their teachers and their peers because that is what is more important to me. More than all the accolades,” said Richardson

In a suburban Iowa district, Richardson’s background of growing up in Chicago and being African-American may seem out of place, but for some students and athletes it has been the perfect match. 

Richardson said, “In our building, our kids don’t have a lot of role models of my color to look up to.  I think me and maybe three other people in our building are African-American. A lot of these kids, they just want someone to listen to them.”

With a 6′ 6″ frame, Richardson’s presence on Friday night is impossible to miss but his impact may be impossible to ignore within the community and the classrooms he serves every day.  “Eventually it doesn’t matter how good you are, eventually football will leave the best of us and what do you have to fall back on?”

Friday is Richardson’s birthday and he will be using it to relax with his six-year-old daughter. While he will not be in uniform for Friday’s historic match-up he will be in the stands.