Cogdell-Unrein and husband fueled by mutual competitiveness
Olympic shooter Corey Cogdell brushed aside a friend's constant pleadings to go on a blind date for as long as she could before finally relenting.
Mitch Unrein, a defensive end for the Chicago Bears, similarly stiff-armed the I've-got-the-perfect-girl-for-you beseechings until eventually giving in.
When they finally did meet, without knowing much about each other, they found a kindred spirit standing in front of them, someone who had many of the same interests, was uncommonly driven and had reached the pinnacle of their chosen athletic endeavor.
They married less than three years later, creating a power couple of elite athletes.
''It was an easy relationship from the start,'' Unrein said.
Cogdell-Unrein grew up hunting and fishing with her family in Alaska and was a natural to the sport. She earned a bronze medal in trap at the 2008 Beijing Games after just two years of top-level competition, finished 11th at the 2012 London Games and is a medal favorite in Rio de Janeiro this month.
Cogdell-Unrein was driven even at an early age, gleaning information from fellow competitors and coaches at competitions to make herself better. She also gained perspective and mental toughness through tragedy at 9 years old when her mother passed away.
''It was a big adjustment and we had to grow up much more quickly than we would have had she not passed away,'' she said. ''Through that tough experience, other things that people found tough in life didn't seem that tough anymore. I love the sport that I compete in, it's very important, but at the end of the day, it doesn't define who I am and it's not the most important thing in life. I think having that perspective has made me mentally stronger and the tough competitor that I am.''
Unrein starred at Wyoming and joined the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He spent most of that season on the Denver Broncos practice squad before seeing his playing time increase the following seasons.
Unrein played four seasons with the Broncos - he caught a TD pass out of the backfield from Peyton Manning in 2012 - and spent a season with San Diego before signing with Chicago in 2015.
When Unrein met his future wife, he found someone who understood what it takes to become an elite athlete, the years of dedication, the hours of training involved, the time away from home to compete.
Cogdell-Unrein felt the same thing about Unrein and it has worked out well. She understands when he has to work out, head off to training camp or play a road game. He, in turn, is supportive when she goes off to training camps or spends a month on the road at competitions around the world.
An example: Unrein will not be able to watch his wife compete in person at the Rio Games because he'll be in training camp, but is planning a watch party in a meeting room at the Bears' complex.
''We both have a great amount of support for each other and a respect for what it takes on a day to day basis to do what we do,'' Cogdell-Unrein said. ''We have to make a lot of sacrifices as a couple to pursue our dreams individually in our sport. There's a lot of time we have to spend apart and a lot of people might not understand not seeing their wife for a month at a time.''
The couple also feed off each other's competitive spirit.
Having an ultra-competitive person in the same house is like high-octane fuel, propelling both forward in their individual sports. Seeing the dedication it takes to reach the pinnacle of sport becomes contagious, pushing two already-driven athletes to reach even higher. Unrein also has taken the mental aspect of shooting from his wife and applied it to football.
But the competitiveness can cause a bit of head-butting in the house when neither person wants to lose so badly.
''Put a board game in front of us, there's likely to be a fight by the end of it,'' Cogdell-Unrein said.
How bad is it? Cogdell-Unrein has to count her husband's money in Monopoly when she gets up to get a drink because he's been known to steal $500s and $100s from the money drawer.
''I've pulled that trick a time or two,'' he said. ''But it's just really good fun. It's nice to have that competitive back and forth in pretty much anything we do.''
Good thing they went on that blind date five years ago.