Coach Mark Sampson's influence spread beyond the football fields and weight rooms of the Pikes Peak region.
Sampson, better known as “Coach Sam,” died at the age of 63 in the first week of April from natural causes at his home in Woodland Park. He is survived by his daughter Athena, of Anchorage, Alaska, and his beloved dog “Maggie,” a 15-year-old rescue pit bull.
“Maggie was his true love,” said Athena, 35, who was shocked by her father’s sudden death.
Sampson spent more than two decades coaching high school football at Woodland Park, Harrison, Sierra and Cripple Creek-Victor. He served as a head coach at Cripple Creek-Victor from 2014-17.
“I’m learning more and more how he helped so many people and influenced their lives,” Athena said. “I didn’t really know how deep it went until other people told me their stories.
“He left such a huge impact on so many people and he will be truly missed.”
Sampson was the construction technology and auto shop instructor at Cripple Creek-Victor since 2015. He was also the head of the school’s Career Technical Education department. His classroom was two doors down from Annie Durham’s, the school’s secondary performing arts instructor.
“I got to know him on different levels over the years,” Durham said. “He was known for his fist bumps. Each morning he’d say to me, ‘Let’s do this!’ I’d say, ‘Let’s get this party started!’”
Durham is working with Athena to plan a celebration of life service for Sampson on June 20 in Woodland Park. He would have turned 64 on June 21.
Sampson was on the Woodland Park football team's coaching staff in 2000 when the team was the Class 3A state runner-up. He then went to Harrison, where he served as an assistant for several years before heading to Sierra, where he served as an assistant under Joe Roskam, the current Woodland Park head coach and Sampson's longtime friend.
“I would have lunch with him in his classroom,” Roskam said. “We were both living in Woodland Park and we’d talk about life. He was just a good guy.”
Sampson often shared the story of how he grew up in a dysfunctional home in Binghamton, N.Y., and left at the age of 14. He lived on the streets for a year, working odd jobs.
In the Army he found purpose and structure that would influence him for the rest of his life. Sampson eventually became a powerlifting coach with the United States Association of Blind Athletes, based in Colorado Springs.
“He worked with our guys all over the United States,” said Mark Lucas, executive director for USABA and longtime Woodland Park resident. “He went to the U.S. Championships and World Championships. He even helped us out in track and field, helping with the shot put and discus. Our athletes truly loved Coach Sam and he would do anything for USABA. He referred to his tight-knit family of athletes and coaches as 'Mi Familia.'"