What You Don't Know About Naya Rivera's Famous Brother

Naya Rivera, 33, who starred as Santana Lopez in Fox's hit series Glee from 2009 to 2015, went missing at a Southern California lake in July 2020. The frightening incident was reported after authorities discovered her 4-year-old son, Josey Dorsey, alone on a pontoon boat that Rivera had rented (via NBC News). The Ventura County Sheriff's Department has since confirmed that the body of Rivera has been recovered, as reported by People. "We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera," Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said at a news conference. "It has been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal ... our hearts are with them and we share in their grief for Naya's loss." 

The tragic news is sure to have hit her family and friends hard, especially her younger brother, Mychal Rivera, 29, with whom Naya was particularly close. 

You may not know much about the younger Rivera, but he's an enormous success in his own right. While Naya took Hollywood by storm with her turn as Santana — the tough-as-nails, yet somewhat mushy inside, at least when it came to castmate Heather Morris' character, Brittany — Mychal was making his mark in the world of sports as a football player. Playing tight end in college and as a pro, Mychal broke records and received a number of sporting honors. 

Here's how Mychal found his path to success and forged close bonds with his famous sister.

Mychal Rivera was a college football star

Mychal was a standout player at his California high school and found himself a sought-after college recruit (via UT Sports). Originally agreeing to attend the University of Oregon, he switched allegiance to the University of Tennessee (he seems to have preferred being a Volunteer over a Duck!), and the rest, in many ways, is history. 

During his college career, Mychal set a record for receiving yards by a tight end in a season by catching 36 passes for 562 yards in 2012. He impressively broke Jason Witten's record of 493 yards, which was set in 2002, per Knox News. To put the achievement in perspective, Witten went on to become an 11-time Pr-Bowler in the NFL (via CBS Sports). Ultimately, Mychal finished his college playing days with a catch in 18 games in a row and was only the second Tennessee tight end to have 1,000 plus receiving yards in his career.

Mychal Rivera made his mark in the NFL

After Tennessee, Mychal went on to be drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2013 and played tight end for the team for four seasons, according to Bleacher Report. After his signing, he said: "My whole life I dreamed of being in the NFL and being able to compete at this level with all these great players. I'm 22 years old and I find myself in an NFL jersey doing the same stuff I was looking up to, so I'm just really happy." (via Raiders.com) What made his new team an even better fit? "I did follow the Raiders when I was young, and I followed all the California teams," said Rivera.

While with the Raiders, Mychal caught his NFL career-best 58 receptions for 534 yards in 2014, according to the NFL.com. He next signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but an injury shortened his stint in Florida, and he's currently a free agent (via The Florida Times-Union).

With both Riveras achieving so much success, you might think it would inspire a sibling rivalry — but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Naya Rivera and her brother shared a tight bond

The pair always have been supportive of each other throughout their careers. Back in 2012, Naya said of her younger sibling: "First of all, I think it's really cool that we each have our, like, sort of specialty and things that we're good at. I just encourage him, you know, and he appreciates the support from when I watch the games." (via Life & Style) And Mychal agreed, adding, "My path is sports, hers is acting. You know, we stay on our own paths and we just have fun doing what we're doing." 

When Mychal was first drafted by the Raiders, he was thrilled to have the chance to play in his home state of California, near friends and family. "They've always supported me throughout my whole career," Rivera told Raiders.com in 2013. "Throughout my ups and downs, they've always been there. Naya has shown me a lot as far as her going on interviews and them saying, 'No,' and just bouncing right back up and continuing to be persistent and following your dreams." 

The two also shared a very special moment during Mychal's first NFL season when Naya was in the stands to watch her brother catch his first-ever NFL touchdown from Oakland quarterback Matt Flynn (via ET). Together for so many life and career milestones, Naya and her brother clearly make each other proud.