ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In 2012, defensive tackle Mitch Unrein has contributed in all phases of the game for the Broncos.
He puts in work with the defense and special teams unit every game, and in the second half of the season has also contributed on offense in goal-line situations.
In Week 14's game at Oakland, Unrein played two snaps on offense and recovered his first career fumble on defense.
He credits his expanded role and contributions to relentless effort in practice and in games.
"That's the one thing I've tried to hang my hat on over the years - being a motor guy and always trying to get to the football no matter what," Unrein said. "That's one of the reasons I've made it so far in the NFL. Coming from practice squad, making an active roster, and now getting even more playing time -- it's just something I'm going to try to keep on doing. Obviously, it's paying off for me."
That motor was on full display in Week 13 against Tampa Bay - the same game he caught his touchdown pass -- on a 26-yard screen pass to Buccaneers running back Doug Martin. Unrein was knocked down at the line of scrimmage as Martin raced upfield. The 291-pound defensive tackle got up and chased after Martin for 30 yards until he finally caught up to the running back and pushed him out of bounds.
During NFL Network's broadcast of the Week 14 contest at Oakland, analyst Mike Mayock revisited that play, amazed at the effort of the Broncos third-year tackle.
"For a defensive tackle, that's a great hustle play," Mayock said.
Unrein appreciated the praise.
"It is nice when somebody gives you some recognition for hustle plays," he said.
Unrein got his first snap on offense on a Willis McGahee touchdown run in Week 8 against New Orleans. He said he isn't sure what made the coaches choose him for the role of goal line fullback, but he is thankful for the opportunity and is making the most of it.
Knowing that there is a good chance Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy will call his number when the team gets inside the 5-yard line, Unrein said he gets a bit "anxious" as he watches the offense work its way down the field.
Once he gets out there as a blocking fullback, adrenaline takes over.
"I'm going in there to make a hole for the running back," Unrein said. "I'm running with a full head of steam and just trying to find whoever is in my path and trying to take them out of there."
If the play is called for him to run a route, his mentality is a bit different.
"As soon as he calls it in the huddle, it's like, 'Wow, here we go. This might be my opportunity," Unrein said, recalling his thoughts before his touchdown reception against Tampa Bay. "I knew I was going to get the ball. Luckily, (quarterback) Peyton (Manning) had the confidence in me to make the throw to me, and luckily I caught it."
It's been a fun ride for Unrein and the Broncos in 2012 as the defensive tackle has gotten the opportunity that someone at his position rarely sees. If the offense decides to revisit the first-quarter touchdown play from the Buccaneers game, he'll be ready.
"It's been fun so far and hopefully I get some more opportunities to catch some passes from Peyton," he said. "We'll see."