Tre’dale Tolver isn’t giving up on his football dreams.
The speedy former Cal Poly standout said he has reached an agreement with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League and will compete for a spot on the 55-man roster at training camp next month — where he’ll likely be seeing passes from former NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Tolver, who had 30 catches for 383 yards and three touchdowns his senior season with the Mustangs in 2008, was confronted with committing to a more conventional career when he was cut after just one game by the UFL’s California Redwoods in the league’s inaugural season in 2009.
“Getting released,” said Tolver, also a return specialist who scored on a 40-yard punt return at Wisconsin in 2008, “introduced a great sense of uncertainty in your dreams and your goals because you’re back to square one. You don’t know where you’re going to go next, and it hurts.
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“After I got released, I took some time off. I started looking into some other opportunities, and I realized this is my first love, and I’ll pursue it through and through.”
The Redwoods franchise, which experienced slumping attendance during a six-game schedule in its San Francisco home last season, is relocating to Sacramento this year.
Complete with the same coaching staff, including head coach Dennis Green — a former NFL head coach with the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals — the Mountain Lions are the same team that cut Tolver a year ago.
After the team kept only two wide receivers from last season’s team and lost return specialist B.J. Sams, Tolver said Sacramento special teams coordinator Martin Bayless reached out to invite Tolver to a tryout.
He’s not exactly sure why it didn’t work out the first time around.
“To this day, I still don’t know,” Tolver said, “but those are decisions that aren’t concerning me. My job is to show up, be ready and be the best player I can be when I get the opportunity.”
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound San Diego native said he clocked a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at a local tryout and that helped get an invite to the team’s minicamp in Sacramento in June, when he had his first interaction with Culpepper.
Tolver’s final hurdle to the September 18 season opener at the Hartford Colonials will be to make it through training camp.
Competition for spots is fierce. Culpepper is far from the only former NFL player looking for an opportunity to prove he can still play.
Former NFL stars like Ahman Green, Edgerton Hartwell and Justin Fargas are also on rosters in the five-team league, which also includes teams in Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., and Omaha, Neb.
Other recognizable names include former NFL starters Tatum Bell, Ronald Curry, Anthony Dorsett, Josh McCown, Chike Okeafor, Chris Perry, Tony Parrish, Patrick Ramsay, Tim Rattay, Fred Smoot, Odell Thurmond, Dontarrious Thomas, Hollis Thomas and former UC Davis standout defensive lineman John Falatoese.
“The signing of Daunte Culpepper just goes to show you the talent that’s in this league,” Tolver said. “Daunte is just a reflection of that. He’s a great quarterback.
“We’re now seeing guys that not only were in the NFL but had great success in the NFL, and they’re not hesitating to take an opportunity to play here.”