For Adam Timmerman, who played for both the Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Rams before turning in his cleats in 2007, that answer was simple.
Return to northwest Iowa and get back into agriculture.
"It was always my plan to come back here and farm," said Timmerman, who now lives in rural Cherokee with his wife Jana and their three children.
He farms with his brother along with handling his duties with ICON's northwest Iowa John Deere dealerships.
Maybe returning home was his plan because the farm is where he received most of his early preparation to succeed on the professional football field.
His parents' Cherokee farm produced "a little of everything," including corn, soybeans, hogs and cattle, Timmerman said.
On the farm, there weren't many neighbor children around to play sports with, and there wasn't much concrete to play games like basketball -- but there was plenty of work to be found, Timmerman said with a grin.
"My parents did teach me the value of hard work and how to enjoy it," he said.
He related stories of shelling corn and sorting hogs.
"You've got a little panel and you're diving in front of that thing and the hogs probably weigh 280 to 300 pounds," Timmerman said, chuckling. "When you're 12 years old and 120 pounds, diving in front of a hog, you get kind of tough, and you're not too intimidated by other guys trying to blow you off the ball in football."
NFL players can weigh in at 300-350 pounds, he said.
"Although if they admit to 350 pounds, they're probably 400," he laughed.
Heading off to college, Timmerman played for the then-Division II school South Dakota State University (SDSU), in Brookings, also pursuing a degree in agribusiness.
As a sophomore, Timmerman broke his leg, taking him off the football field. But that meant he had an extra season of eligibility to play with SDSU after he graduated in 1993.
He planned to get started farming with his dad and got married, as well. But some of his friends suggested he go back to school to play out his last year of eligibility.
His wife agreed, telling him she didn't want him to regret not doing so later.
So Timmerman went back to SDSU for one more season and his hard work caught the attention of a few scouts.
"I was invited to the Snow Bowl at Fargo, and I had a pretty good game," he said.
Still, Timmerman knew his chances of getting drafted into the NFL from a Division II school weren't good.
"It's probably a lot easier if you're a skill guy, if you can run a 4.2-second (40 yard run), if you can do something physically that gets their attention," he said. "I really didn't fall in that category. I'm just kind of your average joe."
When the NFL draft rolled around, Timmerman stayed close to his phone.
He got a call from the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round, saying they were interested in drafting him in the next and final round.
But Green Bay beat them to it, drafting Timmerman -- the 230th pick overall in the draft.
"I was probably more ecstatic than the first guy chosen in the first round," Timmerman said.
He flew out to Green Bay to begin training.
"People ask me at what point I knew I could play professional football," Timmerman said. "I guess it was when I made the team."
He poured his energy into the work, aiming to get a position on the team.
"I knew I could outwork any of the guys I was competing with. I knew once I got out on the field I was going to work harder than anyone out there. I used everything God gave me to achieve what I wanted to achieve on the football field," Timmerman said. "If I didn't make the team, at least I knew I wasn't going to regret it."
His drive caught the coaching staff's attention.
Timmerman's first time on the field as an offensive guard for the Packers was in a playoff game, filling the spot of an injured player.
He made it to two Super Bowls with the Green Bay team, winning in 1997.
After four seasons with the Packers, Timmerman signed on with the St. Louis Rams.
He was also being courted for Philadelphia Eagles, but told the coach he wanted to stay in the Midwest because he and his wife liked living there.
The coach said he'd never heard someone give that as a reason for turning an offer down before, Timmerman said.
He also formed an early bond with the then-Rams coach Richard Vermeil.
"His dad was a mechanic who had taught him hard work from an early age, too," Timmerman said. "Through football I met a lot of great people who had a lot of integrity."
Timmerman also said he felt the Rams had "something."
His hunch was right.
In 1999, when the starting quarterback Trent Green was injured, that allowed the second-string QB a chance on the field. That player was Kurt Warner.
In that season, the Rams finished with a 13-3 record, then went on to win the Rams' first Super Bowl victory.
"That was probably the most fun I ever had in a season," Timmerman said. "We shocked the NFL."
Timmerman made plenty of memories with the Rams before he retired in 2007. He appeared in two Pro Bowls and was team captain for the Rams in 2003-05.
In 12 years as a professional football player, Timmerman tallied 221 consecutive games played, including 17 playoff games.
He also has a few scars to show for his time on the field.
"I'm doing pretty good. I did have a few surgeries along the way," Timmerman said. "I had an elbow cleaned out, both shoulders, a couple arthoscopic knee surgeries on one knee, a stress fracture, a couple screws in the right foot, broke some ribs, several fingers, thumbs. But I never missed any time for any of that; that's what the off-season is for, surgeries."
Although he is officially retired from the NFL, Timmerman may be busier than ever.
As Icon Ag & Turf's general manager, he's overseen the recent opening of the company's new headquarters in Le Mars, and he works with the business' four other locations: Ireton, Doon, Paullina and Lawton.
Hard work is still on Timmerman's priority list.
When hiring people for ICON Ag & Turf, that's part of the criteria.
"That's what I like about the Midwest -- I hope we teach them the values of hard work and the right attitude," he said.
The message Timmerman shared at Wednesday's Agri-Business Luncheon isn't just for farmers, he said.
"If you're from Le Mars or anywhere in northwest Iowa, you are associated with agriculture somehow," he said.
The retired NFL player also takes time to share his testimony at local churches and schools, and works with young people through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Timmerman said he often tells people about how, in school, he was a "B-team" athlete -- not usually among the highest-ranked team at the school.
"I always mention that to tell people, 'don't get discouraged. It doesn't matter where you start out,'" he said. "Keep working on it and have fun out there."
And for those that really want to advance their sports skills, well, Timmerman may be able to find them some hogs to sort.