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Legends through the decades: Mike Samson on Smith, Cooper

KELLEY COX/Citizen Telegram photo
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Mike Samson is more than a fixture to Rifle High School athletics. In his own quiet way, he’s become one of the school’s legends.

Depending on the decade, Samson, currently one of the high school’s deans of students, has been a spectator, an athlete, team coach, game administrator and public address announcer. Not only all that, but he’s also sold concessions as a faculty club advisor.

And he’s not about to slow down as he enters his fifth decade on the scene. He started watching Rifle’s games as a boy, and, except for his college years, Samson’s been involved with Rifle High School sports since.



As a student, a football game in Samson’s senior year, 1971, is a highlight of his athletic career at Rifle High.

“We were playing Glenwood Springs and we were leading 6-0 into the fourth quarter. Then they scored and made the kick to make it 7-6. And I was so mad that I threw my helmet on the ground ” I never did that before.”



Coach Gordon Cooper sent Samson to the bench.

“Cooper said, ‘We don’t throw helmets. So you have to take a seat on the bench,'” Samson recalled.

The punishment lasted one series and after being re-inserted in the game, Samson made the Demons pay.

“We punted the ball to Glenwood and their coverage man didn’t call for a fair catch. I and Kim Antonelli hit the guy, and the ball flew into the end zone.”

Samson spotted the loose ball, then dived on it for the winning touchdown.

During his time as an athlete, Samson began to form a lifetime association with Cooper and Jack Smith ” another of Rifle High’s legendary athletic figures.

“We had the utmost respect for them because they knew what they were doing,” Samson said. “Rifle High School is very fortunate to have those two guys.”

On his return to Rifle as a new teacher, Samson was an assistant coach for both.

“Due to Coop and Jack, I learned to coach and relate to young people,” said Samson, who, during the 1980s, had a three-year stint as the Bears’ baseball and head girls volleyball coach.

At the end of the decade, he retired from coaching to watch his children as they came through high school.

“I enjoyed coaching, but at that time in my life I wanted to spend time with my own kids,” he recalled.

Herb Samson, a 1997 RHS grad, was a star wrestler and baseball player. Sisters Kathryn (’99), Marilyn (2001), and Stephanie (2005) followed. All three played volleyball. Kathryn and Marilyn also starred in soccer and basketball.

The two youngest Samson children currently attend RHS. Fittingly, both have gravitated to sports teams at the high school.

Sandy, a rising sophomore, plays volleyball, basketball and has yet to decide what to do in the spring. Steven, the youngest of the family, plays football.

The kids’ accomplishments have not gone unnoticed.

“Watching your kids assume leadership roles and reach their potential gives you a lot of pride as a parent,” Mike said.


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