Defensive lineman Mitch Unrein (UN-rine) is set to begin the next chapter of his NFL career in Southern California.
Unrein is a native of Eaton, Colorado located about an hour north of Denver, just south of the Wyoming border. The youngest of six kids, Unrein played his college football at Wyoming after his own state’s two biggest schools - The University of Colorado and Colorado State - failed to offer him a scholarship. Two older brothers, Michael and Mark, both played football at the University of Northern Colorado, and his sister, Natalie, was an All-America swimmer there. UNC wanted Unrein, a two-time all-state performer in football and a state-champion wrestler, to play there as well, but he had his own ideas and wanted to chart his own path to play Division I football. He enrolled at Wyoming as a preferred walk-on and within a year, earned a full scholarship. And by the time he graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 2010, Unrein had become a three-time all-conference performer and the defensive MVP of the 2009 New Mexico Bowl.
Despite the lofty accolades during his college career, Unrein went undrafted in 2010. He signed with Houston after the draft, but was released by the Texans at the end of training camp. Thinking his football career could be over, Unrein returned to Eaton and found work cleaning residential sewer lines. All the while, he continued to train and serve as a volunteer coach at his alma mater, Eaton High School. In October, Unrein received a call that would change his life. His hometown Denver Broncos, the team he grew up cheering for, wanted to sign him to their practice squad. Unrein ended up spending the last 11 weeks of the season on the Broncos’ practice squad and a year later, he earned a spot on the team’s active roster. It was a dream come true. Over the next four years (2011-14), Unrein would play in 60 games for the Broncos, including Super Bowl XLVIII vs. Seattle on Feb. 2, 2014.
A self-described blue-collar player, Unrein learned the value of hard work from his father, Mike, who has toiled as a roughnecker on oil rigs in the northern plains since graduating high school in Sterling, Colorado. While dad worked nonstop, Unrein’s mom, Kay, almost single-handedly raised he and his five siblings. All three of Unrein’s brothers - Michael, Marty and Mark - now work in the oil business.
Besides his own siblings, Unrein comes from a large extended family. One of his distant cousins is Terry Unrein, a defensive end whom the Chargers drafted in the third round in 1986. Both of Unrein’s parents had seven brothers and sisters and there are well over 100 cousins spread throughout Colorado between the two sides of the family. When Unrein played for the Broncos, nearly the entire family would attend Broncos games and the family’s tailgate parties became one of Sports Authority Field’s most popular. Also, with his large fan-base, jerseys featuring Unrein’s No. 96 also became very popular and his was one of the few non-starter’s jerseys sold in the Broncos’ team store.
Unrein plans to someday have a large family of his own. His wife is Corey Cogdell, a two-time Olympic trap shooter who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
A popular figure in the social media world, Unrein has an active twitter account (@MitchellJUnrein) with more than 22,000 followers. He also has a website, www.MitchUnrein.com from which he supports a number of causes, including the CPFF Foundation, which raises awareness for Colorado firefighters in need of financial assistance.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: Signed with Houston, May 7, 2010...waived Sept. 4...signed to Denver’s practice squad, Oct. 20...re-signed with Broncos Feb. 7, 2011, April 11, 2013 and April 21, 2014...contract expired, March 10, 2015...signed two-year deal with Chargers, March 19.
2014: Lone tackle of season Nov. 30 vs. Kansas City...inactive for eight games and Jan. 11 playoff game vs. Indianapolis.
2013: First start of season and tallied season-high three stops Dec. 1 at Kansas City...tackle for loss among two stops in Super Bowl XLVIII Feb. 2 vs. Seattle.
2012: One-yard touchdown catch on pass from Peyton Manning for first score in 31-23 win over Tampa Bay Dec. 2...first defensive lineman in franchise history to catch TD pass...in same game, hit on Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman led to interception by Von Miller that was returned 26 yards for touchdown and 28-10 lead.
2011: NFL debut Sept. 12 vs. Oakland.
2010: Spent 11 weeks on Broncos’ practice squad.
COLLEGE: Three-time All-Mountain West Conference...Defensive MVP of 2009 New Mexico Bowl after two sacks and forced fumble in 35-28 double-overtime win over Fresno State...finished career with 162 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles...played in 48 games with 38 starts...redshirted in 2005...played at Wyoming from 2006-09...criminal justice degree.
PERSONAL: Born in Eaton, Colorado...two-time first-team all-state at Eaton High School...2A state champion wrestler (215-pound class) as senior after going 34-4 with 31 pins...four-time Academic Honor Roll.