BAXTER — Home for the holidays, Danny Samson was able to take a breath from a whirlwind postseason football ride. Samson of Baxter was winding up his senior season as defensive end for Central College’s Dutch.
“Yes, it’s been busy. What a great experience for me,” Samson said the week after playing in the Tazon de Estrellas — Bowl of the Stars — Saturday, Dec. 21, in Monterrey, Mexico. Samson and three other Central College senior players were on Team Stars and Stripes coached by Central’s defensive coordinator Don De Waard.
The U.S. team won 29-7 over a squad of Mexico college all-stars.
“Being selected for the all-star game was a great honor for me. It was a great game and to have three of my teammates and our coach there was tremendous,” Samson said.
Samson learned while in Mexico that he was named a first-team D3football.com All-American. It was another honor coming to the former Collins-Maxwell/Baxter Raider. He was the Iowa Conference football defensive MVP, D3football.com All-West Region first-team defense honoree.
“This year everything fell together for us defensively. We had a lot of guys back from last year. Together we had a better feel of what we needed to do — our individual jobs on defense. Having great people around you, allows you to do your job better,” Samson said.
Samson (5-11, 255) became Central’s 32nd football All-America honoree and the first Dutch player cited since 2010.
Samson led the Iowa Conference’s top defense with 11.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss, both tops in the conference. He also tied for second in fumbles recovered with two and recorded three of Central’s 11 blocked kicks—the second-most blocks by a Division III team.
Samson was twice named to the D3football.com team of the week and tabbed conference defensive player of the week. Central finished 4-3 in Iowa Conference play and 6-4 overall in 2013.
“The challenge of the game is what drew me to football. Every play is a challenge because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Samson said. “I’ve had really good times playing with guys in high school and college.”
After graduating from Baxter High School in 2009, Samson went to Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., to play football. Samson said he transferred to Central after one year.
“I wasn’t enjoying it at Truman State. Coming out of high school, it’s a tough decision to make about where to go to play. I didn’t get it right the first time, but coming back and going to Central was the right decision for me,” Samson said.
Samson starred on the CMB Raider team as a quarterback on offense and a linebacker defensively. Going to Central, he said he was a linebacker but moved to defensive end.
“The switch gave me an opportunity to get on the field quicker. I adjusted and learned the defensive end position. There is a difference from high school to college level football. There’s more in-depth film study and game-day information you have to know,” Samson said.
“I was surprised how small our play package was on defense. You watch a game on television and you see all these cards and motions from the sidelines and you think ‘wow, that’s a lot to remember.’ Really, we only had about six or seven plays on defense at Central.”
Samson was named a finalist for the 2013 Cliff Harris Award, presented annually to the top small college (NCAA Division II, Division III, NAIA) defensive football player in the country. The recipient of the award was named in late December.
“I didn’t win it, but to be named a finalist is really an honor. There’s probably close to 600 schools among those three divisions and I was one of 49 finalists. I’m proud of that fact. All the honors I received reflect back on our entire defensive team. I was able to excel because I had a great group of players playing with me,” Samson said.
Samson’s run at Central had the Dutch going 18-12 overall. He was a first-team all-conference defensive end as a junior and senior.
“What I remember the most, especially about this season, is celebrating with my teammates on defense. We had a great year together. We’re a tight group of guys and it fell together for us this season,” Samson said. “Football has been a lot of fun. I love the competition of it, plus the bond I’ve made with a lot of great guys.”
Samson, who is a biology major at Central, plans to return to the family farm near Baxter. He said he grew up in a farming family. His parents are Brian and Sherry Samson.
“Right now, I want to come back and farm. If something in football pops up for me, I’ll consider it,” he said with a smile. “If a (NFL) team calls and wants me to tryout for it, I’d do it. I’ve had a great run in college football.”