Sam Huff, a pro football hall of famer, was killed Saturday. His daughter Catherine Huff Myers reported that Huff Myers had revolutionized linebacker positions during the 50s and 60s with Washington and New York Giants.
Huff, who was 87 years old, lived with dementia for the past 13 years.
Huff was raised in West Virginia’s coal mining camps. After his childhood, he attended West Virginia where he played football for the Mountaineers and as a baseball catcher.
The Giants drafted him in the third round in 1956 (he also inked a pro baseball deal with Cleveland) and he was deemed a “tweener,” without a true position. Legend says that Vince Lombardi persuaded Huff to stay out of his first training camp, and the Giants finally found a place for him as a middle linebacker. He took over the position during his rookie season, and the Giants won the NFL championship that year.
Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry was the Giants defensive coordinator at the time, and Huff would say years later that Landry designed his 4-3 defensive scheme around him.
Huff was the Giants’ defenseman in the 1958 title game against Baltimore Colts. It was the “Greatest Game Ever Played” and resulted in a 23-17 overtime defeat for the Giants.
Huff became one the first players to be called a “star” football player thanks to his significant media presence. At 24 he was featured on the Time Magazine cover. CBS News placed microphones inside his pads in the TV show, “The Violent Universe of Sam Huff.” This allowed CBS News to hear the sound of Huff playing football in 1960.
Huff stated that “you play as hard as you can but you keep it clean,” according to his Hall of Fame bio. We hit each other really hard. But this is a man’s game and any guy who doesn’t want to hit hard doesn’t belong in it.”
Although the Giants reached the championship again in 1961 and 1963, they never managed to win it. After the 1963 season, Giants coach Allie Sherman traded Huff to inter-division rival Washington. Sherman was the one he had to forgive in Sherman’s autobiography.
Huff continued to be productive, finishing his career with thirty interceptions. Huff missed part of 1967 due to an ankle injury. He then retired briefly before returning in 1969 as “player-coach”, at Lombardi’s request.
Huff retired for good and lost a race for a seat in Congress in West Virginia the following year. He was named all-NFL three times, made five Pro Bowls (four with the Giants) and could be considered one of the first defensive superstars in league history.
Huff started his radio broadcasting career with the Giants in 1972. He then joined the Washington booth in 1975 and called all the games, including the three Super Bowl wins.
Follow Chris Bumbaca via Twitter @BOOMbaca.