Sam Huff

Last updated

Sam Huff
Sam Huff.jpg
Huff in college with West Virginia in 1955
No. 70
Position: Linebacker
Personal information
Born:(1934-10-04)October 4, 1934
Edna, West Virginia
Died:November 13, 2021(2021-11-13) (aged 87)
Winchester, Virginia
Career information
High school:Farmington
(Farmington, West Virginia)
College: West Virginia
NFL Draft: 1956  / Round: 3 / Pick: 30
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:168
Fumbles recovered:17
Player stats at  ·  PFR

Robert Lee "Sam" Huff (October 4, 1934 – November 13, 2021) was an American professional football player who was a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. He played college football for West Virginia University. He was a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the latter of which he became a member in 1982.


Early life

Huff was born and grew up in the No. 9 coal mining camp [1] in Edna, West Virginia. [2] The fourth of six children of Oral and Catherine Huff, he lived with his family in a small rowhouse with no running water. [3] Huff grew up during the Great Depression while his father and two of his brothers worked in the coal mines loading buggies for Consolidated Mining. [4]

Huff attended and played high school football at the now-closed Farmington High School, where he was both an offensive and defensive lineman. [5] While he was there, Huff helped lead the team to an undefeated season in 1951. [6] He earned All-State honors in 1952 and was named to the first-team All-Mason Dixon Conference. [6]

College career

Huff attended and played college football for West Virginia University, where he majored in physical education. [7] He started at guard as a sophomore, then as a tackle his next two years, after winning a letter as a backup guard during his freshman season. [8] He was a four-year letterman and helped lead West Virginia to a combined four-year mark of 31–7 and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. [8]

In 1955, Huff was voted an All-American [8] and served as co-captain in both the East–West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. [9] Huff was also named first team Academic All-American for his outstanding efforts in the classroom.

Professional career

New York Giants (1956–1963)

Huff was drafted in the third round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. In training camp, head coach Jim Lee Howell was having a hard time coming up with a position for Huff. [10] Discouraged, Huff left camp, but was stopped at the airport by assistant (offensive) coach Vince Lombardi, who coaxed him back to camp. [10]

Then, defensive coordinator Tom Landry came up with the new 4–3 defensive scheme that he thought would fit Huff perfectly. [4] [11] The Giants switched him from the line to middle linebacker behind Ray Beck. Huff liked the position because he could keep his head up and use his superb peripheral vision to see the whole field. [3] On October 7, 1956, in a game against the Chicago Cardinals, Beck was injured and Huff was put into his first professional game. He then helped the Giants win five consecutive games [4] and they finished with an 8–3–1 record, which gave them the Eastern Conference title. [3] New York went on to win the 1956 NFL Championship Game [4] and Huff became the first rookie middle linebacker to start an NFL championship game. [3]

"Landry built the 4–3 defense around me.
It revolutionized defense and opened the
door for all the variations of zones and
man-to-man coverage, which are used
in conjunction with it today."

Sam Huff, on Tom Landry's 4–3 defense. [12]

In 1958, the Giants again won the East and Huff played in the 1958 NFL Championship Game. [3] The championship, which became widely known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played", was the first National Football League (NFL) game to go into sudden death overtime. [13] The final score was Baltimore Colts 23, New York Giants 17. [3]

In 1959, Huff and the Giants again went to the NFL Championship Game, which ended in a 31–16 loss to the Colts. Also that year, Huff became the first NFL player to be featured on the cover of Time magazine [8] [10] on November 30, 1959. He almost passed up the magazine appearance, demanding money to be interviewed, but relented when Time agreed to give him the cover portrait. [3] Huff was also the subject of an October 31, 1960 CBS television special, "The Violent World of Sam Huff", [8] [10] broadcast as an episode of the Walter Cronkite-hosted anthology series The Twentieth Century . The network wired Huff for sound in practice and in an exhibition game. [3]

"As long as I live, I will never
forgive Allie Sherman for trading me."

Sam Huff, on Allie Sherman's decision
to trade him to the Washington Redskins. [3]

The Giants then visited the championship under new coach Allie Sherman in 1961, 1962, and 1963, but lost every one of them. [3] To improve what he thought was a defensive problem, Sherman then traded many defensive players, including Cliff Livingston, Rosey Grier, and Dick Modzelewski. After these trades, Huff went to owner Wellington Mara and was assured he would not be traded. [3] But in 1964, Giants head coach Allie Sherman traded Huff to the Washington Redskins for defensive tackle Andy Stynchula and running back Dick James. [3] [4] The trade made front-page news in New York City and was greeted with jeers from Giants fans, who crowded Yankee Stadium yelling "Huff-Huff-Huff-Huff." [4]

Huff played in four consecutive Pro Bowls with the Giants from 1959 through 1963. He was named most valuable player of the 1961 Pro Bowl. [4]

Washington Redskins (1964–1967, 1969)

Huff with the Redskins Sam huff redskins.jpg
Huff with the Redskins

Huff joined the Redskins in 1964 and they agreed to pay him $30,000 in salary and $5,000 for scouting, compared to the $19,000 he would have made another year with New York. [3] The impact Huff had was almost immediate and the Redskins' defense was ranked second in the NFL in 1965. [14]

On November 27, 1966, Huff and the Redskins beat his former Giant teammates 72–41, in the highest-scoring game in league history. [14] After an ankle injury in 1967 ended his streak of 150 straight games played [14] Huff retired in 1968. [4]

Vince Lombardi talked Huff out of retirement in 1969 when he was named Washington's head coach. [4] The Redskins went 7–5–2 and had their best season since 1955 (which kept Lombardi's record of never having coached a losing NFL team intact). [15] Huff then retired for good after 14 seasons and 30 career interceptions. [3] He spent one season coaching the Redskins' linebackers in 1970 following Lombardi's death from colon cancer. [14]

After football


After leaving the NFL, Huff took a position with J. P. Stevens in New York City as a textiles sales representative. He later joined the Marriott Corporation as a salesman in 1971, rising to vice president of sports marketing before retiring in 1998. [3] [16] [17] While with Marriott, Huff was responsible for selling over 600,000 room nights via a partnership between the NFL and Marriott that booked teams into Marriott branded hotels for away games. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was a spokesman for Marlboro cigarettes. [18] [19]


After retiring from football, Huff spent three seasons as a color commentator for the Giants radio team and then moved on in the same capacity to the Redskins Radio Network, where he remained until his retirement at the end of the 2012 season, calling games alongside former Redskins teammate Sonny Jurgensen and play-by-play announcers Frank Herzog (1979–2004) and Larry Michael (2005–2012). [8] He was also a broadcaster for a regionally syndicated TV package of Mountaineer football games in the mid-1980s. [8]


In 1982, Huff became the second WVU player to be inducted into both the College and Pro football Halls of Fame. [8] In 1988, he was inducted into the WVU School of Physical Education Hall of Fame and, in 1991 he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. [8]

In 1999, Huff was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame [6] and was ranked number 76 on the Sporting News ' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. [20]

In 2001, Huff was ranked number six on Sports Illustrated 's list of West Virginia's 50 Greatest Athletes. [21] In 2005, Huff's uniform number 75 was retired by West Virginia University. [22]

Horse breeding and racing

In 1986 Huff began breeding thoroughbred racehorses at Sporting Life Farm in Middleburg, Virginia. His filly, Bursting Forth, won the 1998 Matchmaker Handicap. He also helped establish the West Virginia Breeders' Classic. [23]


In 1970, Huff ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, [5] but lost in the West Virginia Democratic primary [3] for the 1st district against Bob Mollohan by more than 19,000 votes. [4]

Illness and death

Huff was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. [24] He died at the age of 87 at a hospital in Winchester, Virginia, on November 13, 2021. [24]

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  2. "Mountaineer Flashback – Sam Huff". WTRF-TV. Archived from the original on June 3, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 "The Violent World". ESPN. Retrieved June 29, 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Profile: Sam Huff". WVU Varsity Club. Archived from the original on December 9, 2002. Retrieved June 29, 2008.
  5. 1 2 "Farmington's Sam Huff went from zero to hero". Times West Virginian. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved June 28, 2008.
  6. 1 2 3 "National High School Hall of Fame". National Federation of State High School Associations. Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved June 29, 2008.
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  9. Sam Huff at the College Football Hall of Fame
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  13. "Greatest game ever played". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 11, 2008.
  14. 1 2 3 4 "Flashback: Huff Changed the NFL Game". Washington Redskins. Archived from the original on July 10, 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  15. "Redskins History: 1960". Washington Redskins. Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  16. Hose, Dan (January 29, 1982). "Sam Huff, who played for West Virginia University's 1953..." UPI. Retrieved November 19, 2021. Huff is a vice president of marketing for Marriott Hotels for whom he has worked 11 years.
  17. Stump, Jake (March 2009). "No One More Enthusiastic about Marriott International Coming to the Rescue of The Greenbrier than West Virginia Football Legend Sam Huff, a Longtime Employee of Marriott". Charleston Daily Mail . Retrieved November 19, 2021. Huff was an All-American tackle for WVU in 1955 and then played for the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. He now lives in Virginia and is a radio color commentator for the Redskins. He joined Marriott as a salesman in 1971 after his football career ended and eventually became the chain's vice president of sports marketing. Huff owns 5 percent of the Town Center Marriott.
  18. Blum, Alan (October 18, 2019). "Museum malignancy: What the Sacklers and Philip Morris have in common". The Cancer Letter. Retrieved November 19, 2021. ...decades of aggressive marketing by Philip Morris aimed at associating its cigarette brands with athletic prowess, notably through Marlboro ads featuring National Football League stars Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, and others. ...
  19. "Life". December 5, 1960: 151. Retrieved November 19, 2021.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. "Football's 100 Greatest Players". Sporting News. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved June 28, 2008.
  21. "W.Va.'s 50 Greatest Athletes". WVSPN. Retrieved June 29, 2008.
  22. Furfari, Mickey (November 23, 2005). "Sam Huff's number to be retired today". Beckley Register-Herald. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  23. McNamara, Ed (November 17, 2021). "Remembering Giants LB Sam Huff; Lights Out in Oregon". Horse Racing News. Retrieved November 19, 2021. Huff began breeding thoroughbreds in 1986 at Sporting Life Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, and Bursting Forth was a multiple graded-stakes winner for him and trainer Graham Motion. She won 10 of 28 starts and earned $524,474. Among her biggest victories were Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Matchmaker (1998) and Keeneland’s Grade 3 Bewitched (1999). In 1987 Huff helped launch the West Virginia Breeders Classic at Charles Town Races. The 35th running of the $300,000 Classic on Oct. 9 topped a nine-stakes, $1 million card for state-breds.
  24. 1 2 Schudel, Matt (November 13, 2021). "Sam Huff, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker of 'unmatched ferocity,' dies at 87". Washington Post. Retrieved November 13, 2021.