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The NFL Family Next Door

Eagle, Idaho is home base for Mike Purcell’s Denver Broncos career.

Story By Liza Long  Photos By Christina Purcell and NFL

Mike Purcell, known as “Michael” to his family, always knew he would play in the NFL. Even in elementary school, the self-described “big guy” told his teachers that when he grew up, he would be a professional football player. The road to NFL success has long odds, but last year, Mike Purcell, aka No. 98, signed a multimillion dollar three-year contract extension with his hometown team, the Denver Broncos, where he plays nose tackle.

Christina has been by his side from the start of his NFL career. Mike met his future wife in his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. An Idaho native, Christina Purcell grew up in Pocatello and played soccer at Idaho State University, where she earned her master’s degree in physical education, athletic administration. She was wrapping up an internship in the Bay Area and headed to Arizona State University for a job as aquatics and fitness coordinator when Mike and his teammates walked into the restaurant where she was hanging out with friends.

“I was torn because football was his job, and he loved it, but I loved my job too,” Christina told me when we spoke by phone, describing their two-year long distance relationship. Christina flew back to San Francisco on weekends to watch Michael play, including one of his most memorable career moments, a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys where he intercepted the ball for a touchdown.

When the couple married, Christina relocated to the Bay Area where their first son was born. They later added a daughter to the family. Today, while Mike is in Denver, Christina balances parenting a six year old and two year old with her thriving photography business, Captured by Christina

“She is the rock in our family. I know I am the big guy, but she keeps all of us together,” Mike told me.

Christina became interested in photography when Mike bought her a nice camera after the birth of their son, and one of her first mentors was a team photographer for the San Francisco 49ers. She creates engaging, joyful, candid photographs of couples, families, and newborns. “Since our lives are all over the place, this is a skill I can take with me,” she told me.

The couple chose to relocate to Eagle when they were looking for a family-friendly community where they could raise their children in a place that felt like the hometowns they remembered. “We both felt like Denver was too big,” Christina told me. “Eagle still has a small town feel, but it’s also close to an airport. Our downtown is so eclectic and local, and people are nice here. Our dream was to settle in a community like Eagle.”

The Purcells have lived in Eagle during Mike’s off-seasons for nearly five years and just built their dream home here.

But though their life may look perfect to some, it comes with a few challenges. “I think people don’t always see the sacrifices,” Christina said. “It was hard at first to give up my career, but Michael couldn’t give up his. I always told myself he wouldn’t do this forever. When he signed the three year contract with the Broncos, his hometown team, it felt like things came full circle for him. But he doesn’t get to be here with us right now, and that’s hard.”

Overall, both Mike and Christina are grateful for the opportunities they have had in their lives. When I asked Mike what advice he would give to the future NFL players, he said, “The one thing I tell anybody is when it comes to your job or sport, you can end up being your own worst critic, but at the same time, no one has more faith in you than you do. Always believe in yourself. Don’t give up. I consider myself an underdog story, but I am still here. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.”