Ex-Hawkeye Anthony Gair has innovative backup plan

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

On a week that several of his Iowa football teammates have picked up professional playing contracts, Anthony Gair’s still waiting for a phone call.

The 22-year-old safety understands.

“It is a process,” he says. “Things may not go as you would want them to.”

But Gair knows that if football doesn’t work out, he’s already got a jump start on a creative backup plan.

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Gair, whose emergence on the field helped the Hawkeyes finish the 2016 regular season on a three-game winning streak, launched a business Jan. 29 that he hopes can touch lives, uplift others and — of course — make money.

Anthony Gair, a former Iowa defensive back, is shown with examples of his business product from PuzzleGreetings.com.

It’s called Puzzle Greetings, a spin off the traditional greeting card, and it’s such a good idea that it’s a wonder nobody else thought of it before.

The recipient receives a wrapped package in the mail. Inside is a personalized note from the sender, with confetti and puzzle pieces that unlock messages.

Gair’s idea gained immediate steam and support from the University of Iowa’s highly respected entrepreneurial programs. He views them as a way to connect “that’s different than texting or messaging on Facebook. … Something they can have and hold onto.”

Examples of the five- or nine-piece puzzles range from a simple “Congratulations” to “My world is brighter because of you.”

The menu rotates, and in the good-timing department, this one’s available, too: “Happy Mother’s Day.”

A freelance designer creates the artwork; Tru Art Color Graphics in Iowa City produces the puzzles; and a woman in Nebraska handles the shipping.

Not a bad operation a few months after Gair was plenty occupied as he prepared as the Hawkeyes' starting strong safety for high-stakes games against Illinois, Nebraska and Florida.

The positive messages within the Puzzle Greetings concept can be traced to Gair's personal story. On Aug. 29, 2005, at age 11, he and his family in New Orleans were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. They relocated first to Irving, Texas. Gair would later play football at the Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, and earn a football scholarship at Iowa.

Most of his family remains in New Orleans or Texas, underscoring for Gair the importance of maintaining meaningful human connections.

His most pressing business challenge is spreading the word.

“It’s harder now (than creating it),” Gair says, “because you’ve got to get people to see it.”

A patent for Puzzle Greetings is pending, Gair says — much like his football future.

“It gives me a sense of peace,” Gair says, “knowing that I have something to fall back on if (football) doesn’t work out.”

About Anthony Gair's business

Website: PuzzleGreetings.com

Cost, locations: Greeting-card puzzles are $14.95 with free shipping online or available for $11.95 in stores at the Coralville Hy-Vee (1914 8th Street); Iowa Book LLC (8 S. Clinton Street, Iowa City) or the Hancher Auditorium gift shop.