WVU Sports Hall of Fame
Written by John Antonik
Robert Lee "Sam" Huff is one of the most well-known and recognized athletes to ever play at WVU.
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Huff was born in Edna Gas and grew up in the coal mining camps in Farmington, W.Va., about 30 miles south of Morgantown. Huff's father, uncles and brothers all worked in the coal mines and he wanted a different life so he took up football, playing well enough at Farmington High to earn a scholarship to West Virginia University.
Huff was a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter at guard and tackle for Coach Art "Pappy" Lewis, teaming with Bruce Bosley and Gene "Beef" Lamone to give West Virginia one of college football's most formidable lines in the mid-1950s. A tough and intimidating player, Huff was also agile enough as a blocker to pave the way for backs Joe Marconi, Tommy Allman, Bobby Moss and Fred Wyant.
He helped lead WVU to a combined four-year mark of 31-7 and a berth in the 1954 Sugar Bowl. The Mountaineers were also able to defeat Penn State three years in a row while Huff wore the Gold and Blue.
For his accomplishments, the 1955 co-captain was named first team All-America by the NEA Service, Look Magazine, Jet Magazine and NBC-TV, while earning third-team All-America honors from UPI. Huff was also an oustanding student, earning first team Academic All-America honors.
After being selected to play in the North-South Game, the Senior Bowl and the College Football All-Star Game played in Chicago, Huff was drafted in the third round by the New York Giants. Huff soon became a star in New York in Tom Landry's innovative 4-3 defensive scheme that featured Huff at middle linebacker.
He earned four all-pro berths in eight seasons (Huff was the voted the game's MVP in 1961) with the Giants and developed a great personal rivalry with linbacker Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers and Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns. Huff was known as one of the few defender who could tackle Brown one-on-one in the open field.
Huff's Giants played in back-to-back NFL championship games in 1958 and 1959, losing both times to the Colts. The '58 game played in sudden death overtime was considered one of the defining moments in NFL history and set the league down the path toward becoming the most popular and lucrative sport in America.
Huff was the first NFL player to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine, and was also the subject of a CBS network TV show entitled "The Violent World of Sam Huff" narrated by Walter Cronkrite.
The Giants played for the NFL titles in 1961, 1962 and 1963 but lost all three. In 1964, Huff was traded to the Washington Redskins (Huff despised Giants coach Allie Sherman for making the trade) where he played four more seasons and making one pro bowl appearance. He came out of retirement in 1969 to serve as player/coach for Vince Lombardi to complete his 12-year NFL career with one NFL championship ring and five division titles.
When the Giants faced the Redskins in 1966, Huff had the satisfaction of beating his former team 72-41. Near the end of the game Huff could be seen imploring his offensive teammates to pour it on and score even more points.
After retiring, Huff began a career as a radio broadcaster for the Washington Redskins Radio Network. He also worked regionally syndicated television games for Mountaineer football in the mid-1980s.
In 1971, a year after his unsuccessful run for the U.S. House of Representatives, Huff joined the Marriott Corporation as a salesman where he worked his way up to vice president before retiring in 1998.
In 1982, Huff became just the second WVU player to be inducted into both the college and pro football halls of fame and later in 1999, he was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame.
Huff was ranked number 76 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. Two years later, he was ranked number six on Sports Illustrated's list of West Virginia's 50 Greatest Athletes. On Nov. 24, 2005, before West Virginia's game against Pitt, Huff's uniform number 75 was retired by West Virginia University - joining Rat Rdogers' number 21 as the first two uniform numbers to ever be retired.
Huff began horse breeding in the mid-1980s and today is co-president of Golden Dreams Riding center in Middleburg, Va. He has since been involved in several Breader's Cup races in Charles Town, W.Va.