DALLAS — Every legendary football coach grows his own coaching tree -- when the assistants branch out to become head coaches elsewhere and usually find success.
It's true in the NFL, college and Texas high school football is certainly no exception.
If Reginald Samples is the tree trunk, Jason Todd is the strongest branch.
Samples is a legend in North Texas high school football, especially South Dallas where he has coached for more than 25 years at Lincoln, Skyline and now Duncanville.
He's coached in state championships. He's come up one play short of a state title. And the Panthers coach has produced dozens, if not hundreds, of Division I college players over the last three decades.
He's also produced one heckuva head coach.
Jason Todd is the head football coach at South Oak Cliff. He took the job the same year Samples took the lead role at Duncanville.
"He's like a father figure to me," Todd said. "His family is like my family."
Samples has been a coach, mentor and friend of Todd since the mid-1990's.
Todd played for Samples at Lincoln and later joined his coaching staff there after college.
When Samples left Lincoln for Skyline, Todd went with and stayed on as an assistant coach.
In 2015, Todd got his first shot as a head coach with South Oak Cliff -- the same high school Samples graduated from nearly 50 years ago.
"We're family," Todd reiterated. "My grand-daddy was actually one of his principals growing up, so we're connected very deeply."
The Samples-Todd connection runs deep. The families are friendly. Todd often chats with Samples' children, including Reginald's son Ra'Shaad, who is now the assistant coach and running backs coach at TCU.
On Saturday, Dec. 18, mentor and mentee will take the field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the final day of the UIL Football State Championships.
"You can see everything that you've ever wanted in life," Todd explained. "Everything that you've coached for. Everything you want the kids to experience. You can feel it. It's almost there."
Todd and SOC play first at 11 a.m. against Liberty Hill.
Samples and Duncanville are the second game of the triple-header, as they look to avenge 2018's heartbreaking loss to Galena Park North Shore at 3 p.m.
Samples has come up short in the title game multiple times over the years, including 2004 (Lincoln) and 2018-2019 (Duncanville).
Perhaps, at long last, 2021 will be the year he hoists the Class 6A Division I trophy. It would be his first state title and the cherry on top of an iconic career.
As for South Oak Cliff, the Bears have never played in the state championship game.
"We're focused because we don't see the moment, we're living in it," Todd noted on Wednesday, after South Oak Cliff had three players sign to play at TCU, SMU and North Texas on National Signing Day.
If Todd brings the Class 5A Division II trophy home to the #TheMecca, the statue might get built by Sunday morning.
"People always talking about the Allen's, Southlake's, Highland Park and those types of schools -- I want to show someone from the inner city can do the same thing those guys can do out there," asserted Todd.
Todd is from South Dallas and is well-aware of the history on the Bears' back.
Assuming you ignore Dallas Carter's movie-making 1988 state title, which was later stripped due to an ineligible player, South Oak Cliff would become the first Dallas ISD school to win a state title since 1958.
Samples was four years old at the time.
Not since 1990 has a Black head football coach led a Dallas-area high school to the state championship.
Samples and Todd can end that drought on Saturday.
"I'll be the first one to shake [Samples] hand when he finally kicks that door in," Todd affirmed. "And we gonna do it together."