Bears’ biggest fan: Ted Diaz hasn’t missed a Rifle High home football game in 62 years
RIFLE — The guy in the bleachers wearing a Rifle Bears ball cap isn’t just any old coot watching a football game.
He’s Ted Diaz, and he hasn’t missed a Rifle High School home football game in 62 years.
And at 92 years old, he has no intention of missing one this year, either.
The sixth-seeded Bears (11-1 overall) face off today with the 10th-seeded Fort Morgan Mustangs (10-2) in the Class 3A semifinals for a berth in the state championship game. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Bears Stadium in Rifle, with the winner moving on to play either top-seeded Discovery Canyon out of Colorado Springs or fifth-seeded Pueblo East.
Diaz isn’t a Rifle High graduate. In fact, he’s not a high school graduate at all. Born in Delta, Diaz moved with his family to Rifle in 1931. He attended the old schoolhouse in Peach Valley and elementary school in Silt.
“I didn’t go to high school,” he said. “I had to stay on the farm and work.”
After two years of serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he took a job as a custodian and a bus driver for the Re-2 school district.
“I was a custodian for 22 years and drove the bus for 25 years,” he recalled with a smile.
For 44 years, Diaz was part of the chain gang in charge of the down markers on the football field, which was at the current location of Rifle Middle School. The only prolonged break he had during that time — which began in 1938 — was the two-year span he spent serving in the military during the war.
When he was around, he attended every football game, became hooked and hasn’t missed a game since 1952.
And he still goes early to mark his seat to make sure he has a good spot, which he said typically is the same spot right around the 40-yard line.
“If you don’t mark it, you don’t know where you’re going to sit,” Diaz said with a laugh. “You have to do that since there are so many people at each game.”
Diaz remembers former players — who are now parents and grandparents. And he remembers his own days playing sports himself, which include baseball, basketball and football.
But it’s the kids who inspire him to come out week after week to watch the team play.
“It makes me proud,” he said. “I’m glad that I’ve been able to live this long to see them in first grade and now in high school.”
As for this year’s Bears, Diaz said they may be small, but they’re quick and fast.
“They may be one of the greatest teams we’ve ever had here,” he said. “This year’s been a better running team than I’ve seen for a long time.”
So what’s his favorite part of the game?
“Every time they go down the field for a touchdown,” Diaz said with a big smile. “That’s my favorite part.”
And if the Rifle Bears make it to the state championship game, you can bet the old coot you see in the bleachers will be Ted Diaz.
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