Robert Lee "Sam" Huff (born October 4, 1934 in Edna Gas, West Virginia) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League for the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
Huff was born and grew up in the No. 9 coal mining camp in Edna Gas, West Virginia, The fourth of Oral and Catherine Huff's six children, he lived with his family in a small rowhouse with no running water. 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.
Huff attended and played high school football at the now-closed Farmington High School, where he was both an offensive and defensive lineman. While he was there, Huff helped lead the team to an undefeated season in 1951. He earned all-state honors in 1952 and was named to the first-team all-Mason Dixon Conference.
Huff attended and played college football at West Virginia University, where he majored in physical education. He started at guard as a sophomore and tackle the next two years, after winning a letter as a backup guard during his freshman season. 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 1954 Sugar Bowl.
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. Discouraged, Huff left camp but was stopped at the airport by assistant coach Vince Lombardi, who coaxed him back to camp.
Then, defensive coordinator Tom Landry came up with the new 4-3 defensive scheme that he thought would fit Huff perfectly. 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. 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 and they finished with a 8–3–1 record, which gave them the Eastern Conference title. New York went on to win the 1956 NFL Championship Game and Huff became the first rookie middle linebacker to start an NFL championship game.
In 1958, the Giants again won the East and Huff played in the 1958 NFL Championship Game. The championship, which became widely known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played", was the first ever National Football League (NFL) game to go into sudden death overtime. The final score was Baltimore Colts 23, New York Giants 17.
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 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. Huff was also the subject of an October 31, 1960 CBS special, "The Violent World of Sam Huff"., broadcast as an episode of the Walter Cronkite anthology series The Twentieth Century. The network wired Huff for sound in practice and in an exhibition game.
The Giants then visited the championship under new coach Allie Sherman in 1961, 1962, 1963, but lost every one of them. 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. But in 1964, Giants head coach Allie Sherman traded Huff to the Washington Redskins for defensive tackle Andy Stynchula and running back Dick James. The trade made front-page news in New York and was greeted with jeers from Giants fans, who crowded Yankee Stadium yelling "Huff-Huff-Huff-Huff."
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.
Washington Redskins (1964–1969)
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. The impact Huff had was almost immediate and the Redskins' defense was ranked second in the NFL in 1965.
On November 27, 1966, Huff and the Redskins beat his former Giant teammates 72–41, in the highest-scoring game in league history. After an ankle injury in 1967 ended his streak of 150 straight games played Huff retired in 1968.
Vince Lombardi talked Huff out of retirement in 1969 when he was named Washington’s head coach. 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). Huff then retired for good after 14 seasons and 30 career interceptions. He spent one season coaching the Redskins' linebackers in 1970.
Huff invested $75,000 with ESPN to showcase the West Virginia Breeders Classic horse race from Charles Town, West Virginia. The event has now run for over 20 years and has paid for Huff’s original investment several times over.
Huff joined the Marriott Corporation as a salesman in 1971 and worked himself up to vice president of sports marketing before retiring in 1998. He owns a 5 percent stake in the Marriott Hotel in Charleston, West Virginia. It remains the only Marriott in the state. h
After retiring from football, Huff spent one season as a color commentator for the Giants radio team and then moved on to the same capacity for the Redskins radio network, where he remains to this day, calling games alongside former Redskins teammate Sonny Jurgensen and play-by-play announcer Larry Michaels. He was also a broadcaster for a regionally syndicated TV package of Mountaineer football games in the mid-1980s.
In 1982, Huff became just the second WVU player to be inducted into both the College and Pro football Halls of Fame. 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.
In 2001, Huff was ranked number six on Sports Illustrated's list of West Virginia's 50 Greatest Athletes. On November 24, 2005, Huff's uniform number 75 was retired by West Virginia University.
In 1986 Huff began breeding Thoroughbred racehorses at Sporting Life Farm in Middleburg, Virginia. His filly, Bursting Forth, won the 1998 Matchmaker Handicap. He is currently the Co-President of Golden Dreams Riding center in Middleburg, Virginia.
Huff is divorced from Mary Helen Fletcher. They have three children, Robert Lee ("Sam") Huff Jr., Catherine Ann, J.D. and three grandchildren Nicholas, Mary Carmen and Robert Lee ("Bobby") Huff III.
- ↑ "Coal Miners--an essay". Appalachian Blacksmiths Association. http://www.appaltree.net/aba/coalminers.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- ↑ "Mountaineer Flashback - Sam Huff". WTRF-TV. http://www.wtrf.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=32016. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 "The Violent World". ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/classic/bio/news/story?page=Huff_Sam. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 "Profile: Sam Huff". WVU Varsity Club. http://wvuvarsityclub.com/profiles/huff_sam.html. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Farmington’s Sam Huff went from zero to hero". Times West Virginian. http://www.timeswv.com/sportscentral/local_story_103012805.html. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 "National High School Hall of Fame". National Federation of State High School Associations. http://www.nfhs.org/web/2004/01/athletes_hm.aspx. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 ""A Man's Game"". Time Magazine. 1959-11-30. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,825995,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 "Robert "Sam" Huff: Academy of Distinguished Alumni". West Virginia University. http://alumni.wvu.edu/awards/academy/1990/robert_huff/. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- ↑ "Sam Huff's College HOF profile". College Football Hall of Fame. http://www.collegefootball.org/famersearch.php?id=50085. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "Sam Huff's Pro Football HOF profile". Pro Football Hall of Fame. http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=102. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- ↑ "Building America's Team". Dallas Morning News. http://www.cowboysplus.com/classic/webspecials/landry/landrybuild.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- ↑ "Describing 'The Innovator'". The Sporting News. http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/landry/quotes.html. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- ↑ "Greatest game ever played". Pro Football Hall of Fame. http://www.profootballhof.com/history/release.jsp?release_id=1805. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Flashback: Huff Changed the NFL Game". Washington Redskins. http://www.redskins.com/news/newsDetail.jsp?id=36423. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- ↑ "Redskins History: 1960". Washington Redskins. http://www.redskins.com/team/history-history.jsp#1960. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- ↑ "Football's 100 Greatest Players". Sporting News. http://archive.sportingnews.com/nfl/100/76.html. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- ↑ "W.Va.'s 50 Greatest Athletes". WVSPN. http://www.sportsmediainc.net/wvspn/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=78. Retrieved 2008-06-29.