On January 7, America will watch Colton Underwood as he looks for love on the popular and long-running reality television show The Bachelor. Even though millions will tune in, it is hard to imagine a group more invested in Underwood’s journey than Redbirds, who watched him wreak havoc on opposing offenses for four seasons as a standout football player.
Underwood might not have been in the spotlight at all if he hadn’t attended casting meeting in Denver for spin-off show The Bachelorette on a whim. Underwood, a 26-year-old former professional football player and philanthropist thought it would be a great experience to be one of the men selected to vie for the affection of 28-year-old publicist Becca Kufrin. The premise of The Bachelor and its spin-offs presents an eligible single person with 25 to 30 suitors. Over the course of 10 weeks, the pool is eliminated to a single love interest, usually culminating in a marriage proposal during the finale.
Four days after speaking to a casting director, he was contacted to start the formal application process for being part of the show. After answering questionnaires and submitting pictures, he was flown to Los Angeles for a final round of meetings.
“Even after all of that, you don’t really know if you are on the show or not,” he said. “They let me know about a week before filming started.”
Underwood was a breakout star on The Bachelorette, making it all the way to week eight of the show before being eliminated. He was a part of the cast for the fifth season of Bachelor in Paradise, which aired during the summer of 2018. On September 4, 2018, he was named as the newest Bachelor. Filming for the 23rd season of the show started shortly after the announcement.
Underwood said the time on the show has changed his life and he is ready for everyone to see his journey.
“I am very excited to have the season air,” he said. “The experience was unbelievable. Realizing how much I have given up in my life for football and for my professional career, it was important to apply the same effort to my personal life.”
Before the television stardom, he made big contributions to hard-nosed defenses that helped take the 2012 Redbirds to the playoffs for the first time in six years. Head coach Brock Spack said Underwood’s best attributes on the field were his toughness, his relentlessness as a competitor, and his high effort on every snap. More importantly, Spack said his leadership and work ethic motivated everyone on the team to get better every day.
“Not only was he an excellent athlete, but really a poster child for what a student-athlete should be,” Spack said. “He was a pillar for how we build our program and the success we had after he left was built on his standard.”
After wrapping up his collegiate career in 2014, Underwood was signed as an undrafted free agent to play outside linebacker for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. He went on to play for the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles as well over the course of two seasons before retiring. While in the league, he started making his name not only as an athlete, but as a philanthropist.
“I didn’t want to be only defined as a football player,” he said. “For me, it was always important to be involved in the community and remind everyone that athletes are everyday people.”
This drive led him to start the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation in 2015. The organization raises money for those suffering from cystic fibrosis. His niece, Harper, was diagnosed with the disease at birth, which led him to want to learn more about cystic fibrosis and how he could help its patients.
Currently, Underwood is embarking on The Legacy Project, in which he is donating a medical device, called an AffloVest to 50 cystic fibrosis patients in 50 states. Cystic fibrosis is a condition that thickens the mucus in the lungs, which creates a haven for bacteria. In addition to medication, patients often need to wear a vest for up to two hours a day that helps break down the mucus in their airways. AffloVests do not need to be plugged into a wall to function, allowing a greater degree of comfort and freedom for the user.
“We surprise a family living with cystic fibrosis with a vest who has been denied because of their insurance or financial hardship,” he said. “This gives them more flexibility, allowing them to live out their dreams and experience the best life they can.”
Even as he takes a step forward into the limelight, he is still focused on continuing his education. After receiving his degree in business management in 2018, he has now turned his attention toward becoming a broadcaster through an educational program with the NFL Players Association. The program partners Underwood with professionals in the broadcasting field, allowing him to job shadow and make connections throughout the industry. He says becoming a sports broadcaster would be a natural fit for him, but he is open to other opportunities in the entertainment industry.
Underwood’s advice to Redbirds is to stay true to themselves, no matter where life takes them.
“I think that is what being a Redbird is all about. Stand out, make an impact, and be different.”