For our August 2013 issue, I spent months getting to know Broncos third-year defensive tackle Mitch Unrein to write “In Defense of Big Dreams,” an in-depth profile of the 26-year-old. Born and raised in the tiny town of Eaton, Colorado, Unrein was underrecruited out of Eaton High School, went undrafted out of the University of Wyoming, and got cut as a rookie free agent. The Denver Broncos picked him up for the practice squad in 2010—and he’s become an everyday player that Broncos coaches trust and use on both sides of the ball. On fourth down and two to go in the AFC championship game, Unrein set up at the fullback position and made a block that allowed the running back to pick up a critical first down—one that helped seal a victory and sent the Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII. Before he left Colorado to head to New Jersey, Unrein took time to chat with me about going to the big game.
5280: First of all, congrats! I think you told me back before the season began that this could happen.
Well, you know, it just felt right. I’m so glad it happened.
5280: You leave Sunday for the East Coast, right? What have you learned about the Super Bowl that you never knew until now?
That it’s a media frenzy. Our first team meeting on the Monday after the AFC Championship was about handling the media. What questions we’ll get asked, which ones maybe not to answer. You know, there’s always one guy that misspeaks.
5280: I think Richard Sherman might be that guy.
Yeah, well, it happens.
5280: What else have you learned recently?
That people are really into our games. And that they’re so excited about the Super Bowl. I got at least 50 texts after the AFC game.
5280: Oh yeah? How many of them were asking you for tickets?
(Laughs.) I get two complimentary tickets and then I can purchase up to 13 more. My parents are getting the comp tickets and they’re also getting the package that Pat Bowlen offers us; we can pick two people to get free flights and free hotels. It’s really cool of Mr. Bowlen. I’m just so excited my parents get to be there. Then I have about nine other family members that are coming, including my fiancé.
5280: How much did those additional tickets cost you?
$1,800 each. But my family is pitching in.
5280: Is your family excited?
Yeah. I think my mom is more nervous than I am. I’ll be nervous when I get there, but it’s not totally real to me yet. I’m still here in Colorado.
5280: You would’ve been about 10 or 11 when the Broncos won their last Super Bowl—do you remember those back-to-back wins?
I do actually. I remember when John Elway ran with the ball and did that helicopter spin in the air. That was cool.
5280: Think the coaches will call the Cowboy Package—where you play fullback—on February 2?
It depends on the game but, hey, we practice it every week.
5280: What are you most excited about?
I’m excited about the game. I don’t care how we win—a last-second field goal or a blowout—so long as I get to hold that trophy for a moment and give it a big kiss. Then I want to spend that night celebrating with my family.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Follow features editor Lindsey B. Koehler on Twitter at @linzkoehler.