The pursuit of bling has always been a fascination for two-time Olympian Corey Cogdell, a competitive shotgun shooter from Eagle River, Alaska. The allure of such led her to mining an Olympic bronze medal as a 21-year-old and now has her accessorizing sports apparel for fans of the Super Bowl-bound Denver Broncos. And like Peyton Manning’s career portfolio, business is booming.
The business, Custom Team Bling, began as nothing more than a hobby, a way for her to support her fiancé, Mitch Unrein, a defensive tackle for the Denver Broncos. Her gameday fashion statements, featuring blinged-out jerseys and hats with animal prints and the signature Swarovski Crystal, were such a hit, she decided in late 2013 to take the idea and go bigger.
“I started doing it for fun with a girlfriend of mine last football season when we realized there were not a lot of feminine options out there for lady sports fans, so I started designing and making my own fan wear to support my favorite team and player,” said Cogdell, who leaves Thursday to join in on the Super Bowl festivities.
Admittedly though, there’s a certain bling that’s got her the most excited lately, the kind found on her left ring finger. Dating since 2010, Mitch finally proposed in November and the two have plans for a June 21 wedding later this summer in Colorado Springs.
“Not only is he the love of my life, he is my best friend,” Cogdell admitted late last year. “We share the same competitive drive and his support has helped me tremendously in the last few years. When you are an athlete, most of the time you have to be very self-centered to be successful. “We understand that about each other’s job and support that. But at the same time, I think we both have learned to focus more outside ourselves to make the other person happy and support them in their dreams.”
But for now, Mitch is chasing another ring. The former Wyoming Cowyboy product is an important part of the Denver Broncos defensive line and will have a lot to say in Denver’s ability to contain the beast mode that comes with Seattle Seahawk’s star running back Marshawn Lynch. Not to mention, as the team’s goal-line fullback, he has the chance to enter Super Bowl lore, like William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry, and have an impact on the offensive side of the ball.
Being a player’s girlfriend has been no easy task for Cogdell, who feeds off the energy, excitement and unknown that comes with every snap of the ball.
“I definitely think that being involved with one of the players definitely puts a different aspect on the game for me,” Cogdell admits. “When you have a vested interest in a team and a player and their success, it definitely brings a whole different level to your interest for every snap, every minute of the game, whether that’s worrying about your significant other’s well-being, injuries, hard hits, just the general success of the team.
“I live a lot of Mitch’s excitement and nerves through my experience in my own sport, just because I know how that really feels,” Cogdell adds. “I feel like every week, I’m going out there and I’m pulling for him and his team just like I would be for any of my teammates on Team USA. This season has just been really exciting and full of a lot of ups and downs through injuries, and the health of our head coach [Coach John Fox]. I’ve seen this team really fight through a lot of adversity. To see them where they are now and to see Mitch playing in the Super Bowl, it’s the same type of feeling and energy I had when I found out I had made the Olympic Team.”
The team’s success has no doubt had a direct correlation with the rise of Custom Team Bling, not to mention a profound effect on sleep and training – funny thing the power of promotion. Interviews with local Denver TV stations have only increased opportunity and expectation. No one in Bronco nation wants to be without their bling come Sunday. Cogdell estimates she’s shipped 35-40 items in the past two weeks and projects another 30-40 yet to complete before she steps on her New York-bound plane on Thursday. A blinged-out hat takes 1-3 hours to complete and a jersey is normally a five-hour project.
Hopefully, there won’t be any shortage of the crystals she’s using as that seems to be the only thing that might slow her down. Oh yeah, that, and time.
“It’s definitely blown up, said Cogdell of her new business venture. “It’s become more than I ever thought it would. It’s only going to continue to grow. I started it as a hobby thinking it would be slow and steady, but instead it’s been anything but. There are a lot of things I had planned on doing after my shooting career ended. Initially, this was never really ever one of them. I could definitely see this turning into a full-fledged business where I need to hire some employees to help with the demand. There’s always going to be sports teams around and fans that want something different, unique and personalized. I’d love to be able to hit that niche market and continue to do this as more of a full-time job.”
Cogdell, a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete, seems to be living in the moment more than at any point in her life. But then there’s that ultra-competitive personality that has brought her so much in the world of competitive shooting. The two, at times, might seem to be in conflict. But, the experience and maturity that comes from having gone through two Olympic cycles helps keep that in check.
“I feel like I’m at a totally different point in my life than I was a couple years ago and I’m striving to find that balance with my shooting goals, my personal life and now this new business,” said Cogdell. “The hunger, passion and desire are definitely still there, but my priorities have changed. I’m now focused on maximizing the training time I do have. In years past, I would train six days a week, all day and run myself into the ground. Last year, I changed up the way I was training to four days a week and really be present and in the moment while I was training. I’m just as committed [to shooting] as I ever was before.”
She’s had her moments of glory and there’s certainly more to follow in her career, but this week in particular, she’s all about experiencing a sport’s pinnacle moment from a different side. There are not many partners that can understand the rush of emotion—that joy, excitement, nerves, anxiety and worry that goes into being on the world’s grandest stage. But the feeling is all too familiar to Cogdell and she’s glad Mitch is getting the opportunity to experience it too.
“One of my favorite parts of the game is the very beginning when they’re doing all the pre-game stuff like the flyovers and skydivers and the National Anthem plays. That’s the time that brings tears to my eyes, the anticipation of these moments you work so hard for. It gives me that excitement in the pit of my stomach. It just gives me such a sense of pride to see Mitch run out onto the field and experience that excitement from him. It’s a just such an intense rush of emotions every week with the highs and lows of the game and I’ve probably cried at five games this year as a result of Mitch’s success and the team’s success. I just know how much of a life-changing experience the Olympics have been for me and I know how much of a life-changing experience this will be for him.”
Visit Cogdell’s Custom Team Bling website here: http://customteambling.com/
To view Cogdell’s USA Shooting Team bio, click here: http://bit.ly/1b0F16u
Image courtesy USA Shooting