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TAMPA, Fla. – Rick Woods got the word he was moving to Tampa in a most unusual way – he’d been traded. Woods, now senior vice president of sales and a partner in CastleGarde, a Tampa-based credit union IT security services provider, was a pro football player in 1987, a defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was being sent to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His football career ended that year in Tampa. He needed a job and his neighbor happened to be president of the check division of TeleCredit and introduced Woods to his second career, in the credit card industry and primarily serving credit unions. Woods was hired by Dennis Driscoll – “considered one of the fathers of enhancements, the bells and whistles that accompany credit card transactions,” Woods says – and began selling to existing clients. “After a few years I became a sales rep, covering Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana for credit card processing,” Woods says. The players have changed – TeleCredit became part of Equifax and then became Certegy, and Woods himself moved to First Data Resources. He later went into business in Omaha, Neb., providing electronic data exchange services to big oil companies in a setting he describes as “quite a rodeo ride during the dot-com boom, until we went bust.” A friend at Certegy then introduced Woods to Ed Francis, CastleGarde’s founder and president, and Woods joined the firm about three and a half years ago. Since then, it’s grown to have 247 clients, 244 of them credit unions, including many of the industry’s largest. “It’s been such satisfaction, watching our company grow and the individuals mature,” he says. “We started with four and now we have 16-plus with offices in three states!” Woods, now 45, was a fourth-round draft pick for the Steelers in 1982 after a college career at Boise State, where his team won the I-AA national championship in 1980. But ask him about the highlights of his career, and the six-year NFL veteran is more likely to tell you about something other than exploits on the field, for instance, when his company won from CUNA Services Group the credit card business of the 135-member Illinois Credit Union League. “That was huge for us. I remember walking through Naperville, at the league’s offices, and people coming out of cubicles to look at us as we were walking through having just won their business. It was a quite a feeling,” he recalls. He’s also proud of his kids. One daughter, Madison, is at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on a track scholarship, while the other, Merritt, is a star high school athlete in her own right. Indeed, Woods doesn’t typically broadcast his pro football background. “Although I’m proud of my football past, I really try to hold it close to the vest,” he says. “I’ve found that I do get mileage out of it, generally when people find out on their own accord or through an acquaintance, however. And sometimes, it’s cool to hear from a client that they just recently found out about it and had no idea.” And Woods values his relationship with credit unions. “It’s my life now, and really has been most of my working life, working with credit unions,” he says. “It’s a tight-knit world. We take a great deal of interest in our clients and they embrace working with us as well. “And I wake up a lot less sore.” -

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