Samantha took some time away from her preparation for the Colorado game this week to answer a few questions from BuffaloSportsNews about her background and her approach to her job.
Samantha Steele: “I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ in a family of six. I went to Central High School where I played volleyball, softball, track and tennis and my dad coached football and basketball. As a kid, I always thought Ahmad Rashad had the coolest job so I figured if I moved to NYC after high school maybe I’d be able to do something like that (naïve right?!). After two months, I landed an internship at ABC Sports Radio where I interviewed guys like Kasey Kahne and Dennis Rodman (now there’s a father’s dream) and seemingly everyone in between. When I moved to TV, I helped in the research department for John Saunders, Craig James and Aaron Taylor/Doug Flutie on the college football studio show. Sitting around in the green room Saturday after Saturday talking ball over chili and brownies (fellas can eat!), those guys gave me the confidence that I could do sideline reporting. So what I’m saying is, if you don’t like me… blame them.
“For school, I went to The King’s College in NYC, Arizona State University and finished at Liberty University in Virginia. Start the flake chants now. I liked to think of my college degree as more of a journey than a destination (thank you Oprah). I will say, the journey would have been shorter if I knew my old friend Sallie Mae was going to turn on me.
“While at Liberty for two years, I was the host/reporter for all of the Big South football and basketball games aired locally on the Flames Sports Network and nationally on MASN and Family Net. I learned by trial and error, but the crew, coaches and Athletic Director made it a job about getting to know people, not just reporting about injuries and changes in coverages.
Have you given any thought to being on the sideline when a 1,200 pound Buffalo is sprinting nearly 30 mph in your direction and what you might do? Just saying, planning is everything.
Samantha Steele: "I placed second in almost every running event in the Madison Simis fourth grade field day competition. If Ralphie is faster than Renee Cain I could be in trouble but I remember that she was lightening fast."
Are you excited to see Ralphie run? It is one of the greatest traditions in all of college football after all.
Samantha Steele: "I was just on the phone with Coach Hawkins and he informed me that Ralphie is a girl. This is disturbing to me on many levels. I'm told that she was originally named Ralph but that they changed it to Ralphie when they realized she was a girl. That really cleared up the confusion.
"To answer your question, yes, I am excited to see Ralphie run. I love schools with live mascots because there's always that possibility that they're going to freak out and do something awesome (in a safe way of course). When I was at ASU, Sparky really creeped me out (a giant devil?) and at Liberty, we were the Flames but we had a stuffed eagle."
What are your thoughts about the Buffs so far this season?
Samantha Steele: "It's easy to say the team is struggling and things aren't looking good. The tough part in assessing a team is digging a little deeper and seeing what the coaches are really trying to do with the program. Guys are learning. It's like Andre Simmons, for example. The talent is there, but it's going to take time for him to understand concepts. It's human nature to want results now, but as Coach Hawkins told me today, he and his staff had to completely rebuild this program. There's no doubt it's a process. CU fans hung in there with Coach Mac and I think if they understand that Coach Hawkins is trying to do this the right way, even if it's not a quick fix, they'll stick with him.
Did you talk football a lot with your dad growing up or did you just sort of learn by watching him and the game?
Samantha Steele: "To be honest, I didn't watch many games growing up. We were too busy outside playin' and we only got four channels. I have an older sister and two younger brothers and I'm pretty sure my sister taught me how to throw. Girl has a gun. Both of my brothers played high school QB and one of them plays receiver in college now. Doug Flutie and I played catch at the Rose Bowl a few years ago and I'm pretty sure our throws looked the same. Granted, he was using his left hand, but I can hang.
"My dad coaches football and basketball at Central High School in Phoenix and my family runs an inner city program downtown so we always have guys at the house playin' ball. I learned the game by being the "hey, we need another to be even" girl."
Who has been the biggest influence on your professional life and why?
Samantha Steele: "I've worked around a lot of cool guys. Working for John Saunders, Craig James, Aaron Taylor and Doug Flutie at ABC was fun because they were all so different in their approach to the industry, so I was able to learn that it's important to be yourself and find your own way.
Aaron is like a big brother to me. He works hard and prepares well but still has fun with it. Sometimes I think people forget that it's football... not the evening news. Aaron always helps me keep things in perspective because he has really balanced his career as a player/analyst with being a good husband and dad. He also comes in handy as a bodyguard.
What's your ultimate goal with your career?
Samantha Steele: "I will do whatever it takes to be famous. Probably reality television to start. Hopefully, I'll be a singer too so I can get a VMA and dare Kanye to try and take it from me. I wish he would...
"Back to reality."
"If you caught me five years ago, I would have said my life long dream was to be like Ahmad Rashad. I loved watching NBA Inside Stuff and thought he had the coolest job. Now, I just want to enjoy what I'm doing and be in a position to get to know people. I know that sounds vague but I don't have a ten, or even five year plan. I get to talk to coaches and players and travel around the country to talk about ball. No complaints there. One of my family's mottos growing up was "you don't have to, you get to"... even when it came to doing chores. I'm just grateful to have a job where I get to meet new people and wear chuck's to work."
When you're watching a game at home and a sideline reporter asks a bad question in those few brief moments they have with a coach or player, do you cringe, too?
Samantha Steele: "My palms sweat. Even more so when it's me asking a dumb question. It's kind of like when I used to run track in high school. You practice for weeks and weeks and then the gun goes off and it's over in seconds. I would walk away from the track thinking, 'What the heck just happened and why am I so slow?'"
How do you decide what to ask a coach at halftime or the end of the game, given that you have time contraints from television?
Samantha Steele: "The awkward thing about asking coaches questions at halftime is that it's no big secret that they don't want to talk to you. They want to get in there with their guys and get ready for the second half. Instead of asking questions about their feelings, I like to ask questions that show their thought process so fans understand where they're coming from.
"A lot of times, coaches are asked questions that any fan could answer ("No, I'm not happy with my secondary... they just got burned three drives in a row!"), so I try to ask things that set the coach up to explain his strategy or how he might change up schemes in the second half."
What are your thoughts on Wyoming this season?
Samantha Steele: "When I talked to Coach Christensen and both of their coordinators today, I heard the word "discipline" used more times than I've ever heard in my life. They're really changing the culture over there, doing things the right way and letting players know what's expected of them. Obviously, the first half of the Texas game had to be exciting for Wyoming fans. They're going to come into Boulder with a lot of energy and confidence."
You must be happy the game is in Boulder and not in Laramie right?
Samantha Steele: "Don't try to make me a hater! I've never been to Boulder so I'm really excited to check out the town. I get in early Thursday morning so hopefully I'll be able to spend some time exploring. We were in Kansas last week and Lawrence was pretty sweet so Boulder's gonna need to step up and show me somethin'!"
Follow Sam on Twitter and ask her questions during this week's game. http://twitter.com/SamOnFCS
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