This time last year, Mike Purcell was wondering if he'd ever play in the NFL again. Tonight, when the Denver Broncos take the field in Oakland, the former Wyoming defensive tackle will fulfill a lifelong dream, suiting up for the team he's rooted for since childhood.

“Coming out of college, I signed with San Francisco as a free agent, and my first game was here against Denver,’’ Purcell told 9 News. "Seven years later I’m playing for the home team and it (will) definitely be a dream come true."

It's been a long road back to Denver for the Highlands Ranch native, who played four years at Wyoming. Purcell anchored the Pokes defensive line during his college, starting 36 games and earning first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors in 2012.

Purcell signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent out of college and earned a spot on San Franciso's practice squad. He was promoted to the 53-man active roster in 2014. By 2015, Purcell was in the starting lineup and made the team again in 2016, recording 26 tackles in 15 games.

After Purcell was released by San Francisco, he bounced around during 2017, playing on the practice squad for the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs. Purcell didn't play in 2018 after being cut by the Chiefs during the last week of training camp. In 2019, he briefly joined the Salt Lake City Stallions of the American Football Alliance before signing with the Broncos in April and eventually earning a roster spot.

Purcell is one of eight former Wyoming Cowboys to kick off 2019 on an NFL roster, joining Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen,, Jacksonville Jaguars safeties Tashaun Gipson and Andrew Wingard, Minnesota Vikings safety Marcus Epps, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Mark Nzeocha, and Washington Redskins center Chase Rouiller.

Former Wyoming cornerback Rico Gafford, who signed with Oakland as an undrafted rookie free agent, didn't make the 53-man roster but earned a spot on the Raiders practice squad. Former Cowboys tight end Jacob Hollister will kick off his third NFL season on the Seatle Seahawks practice squad while former Wyoming defensive end Eddie Yarbrough was named to the Buffalo Bills practice squad.

Two other undrafted rookies from Wyoming, tight end Austin Fort and defensive tackle Carl Granderson will open the season on injured reserve for the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints.


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