Sure hindsight is 20-20, but looking back at Colton Emich’s decision to play football at Western State in Gunnison was a no-brainer.
An avid outdoorsman, Gunnison’s setting in the southwest corner of the state is like his own personal playground for hunting, fishing, camping and just enjoying the majestic beauty of what Colorado has to offer.
“There’s just so much to do,” said Emich, who just turned 21-years old and was celebrating in Las Vegas. “The opportunities are endless.”
The former Holy Family defensive standout has found a home in Gunnison and on the Mountaineers’ defensive line. And despite the fact Western struggled to a 1-10 season in 2012, Emich and Mountaineers coach Jas Bains are hopeful he and his mates can turn it around.
Bains knows he has a versatile player in the Emich, who in high school was always that big kid that teams ran away from, but has had to adapt to the college game. He will likely get a lot more playing time this year.
“He’s put himself in a good spot over the last couple of years to get playing time, compete, and has even started a couple games here and there,” said Bains, who arrived in Gunnison the same year Emich did. “He fits what we do. He’s a guy that is a little bit more athletic and can move, which is different from some of the guys we have playing defensive end. He’s definitely not the same as everybody else.”
Holy Family coach Mike Gabriel recalls when Emich came to the Tigers’ first practice as a freshman and knew that he was capable of big things.
“He was one of those kids that was big from his freshman year on,” Gabriel said. “It has probably caught up to him a little bit in college, but he has still been a three years starter up at Western. Something about him has been good and hopefully it is something we instilled in him.”
Emich, a state champion and school record holder in the discus (161 feet, 9 inches) during his senior year, was a team captain and an imposing force for the Tigers. As a senior captain he helped Holy Family to the second round of the playoffs and even got the normally stoic Gabriel to loosen up one particular occasion.
“I’m not one to show a lot of emotion and there were a couple seconds left on the clock and Colton looked at me and said, ‘Coach, it’s OK, we won,'” Gabriel said. “I said, ‘There is still time on the clock.’ And he looked back at me and said, ‘It’s OK, we won, you can smile.’
“He was one of the cornerstones of our team and we built our defense around him. We found way to work him on the offensive line as well and maybe he wasn’t a highly touted D-1 recruit but one of those guys that a lot of the D-II schools in the state thought was worth their time.”
Emich, who is staying in Gunnison over the summer and working out with the team, played every game of his redshirt freshman year in 2011. He suffered a separated shoulder in a lopsided 57-20 loss in Week 2 to West Texas A&M, missed a little time, but was still able to contribute.
The now redshirt junior is majoring in business with an emphasis in professional land and resource management and entrepreneurship.
“I would love to get into the oil and gas industry,” he said. “Or maybe even start my own business.”
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