Sam Huff, Fearsome Hall of Fame Linebacker, Dies at 87


Sam Huff, the Giants’ Hall of Fame center linebacker who turned the face of professional soccer, his feats celebrated within the nationwide information media, when the N.F.L. started to vie with main league baseball as America’s No. 1 sport, died on Saturday in Winchester, Va. He was 87.

His demise, in a hospital, was confirmed by his daughter, Catherine Huff Myers, who stated Huff discovered he had dementia in 2013.

Playing for the Giants of their glory years of the late Fifties and early ’60s, Huff got here out of the West Virginia coal nation to anchor a protection that gained the sort of renown that had beforehand been reserved for strong-armed quarterbacks and elusive runners.

He performed in six N.F.L. championship video games in his eight seasons with the Giants. He was named to the all-league crew 3 times and performed in 5 Pro Bowls.

Huff was remembered for his head-on duels with two of the sport’s biggest fullbacks — the Cleveland Browns’ Jim Brown and the Green Bay Packers’ Jim Taylor — however he additionally had 30 profession interceptions. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Yankee Stadium, the Giants’ dwelling at the time, reverberated to chants of “DEE-fense” and “Huff, Huff, Huff” within the late Fifties as one of the N.F.L.’s oldest groups turned a glamorous franchise, vying with the baseball Yankees for media acclaim in America’s communications capital.

Huff turned the epitome of the rough-and-tough soccer star.

On Nov. 30, 1959 — nearly a 12 months after the thrilling sudden-death N.F.L. title recreation between the Giants and Baltimore Colts had launched professional soccer’s ascendancy — Time journal positioned a portrait of Huff on its cowl. He was the main target of “A Man’s Game,” an article in that difficulty about professional soccer.

Huff’s fearsome aura was sealed on Oct. 30, 1960, when Walter Cronkite narrated the CBS documentary “The Violent World of Sam Huff,” half of the sequence “The Twentieth Century.”

A microphone and a transmitter had been positioned on Huff’s shoulder pads for an exhibition recreation towards the Chicago Bears in Toronto the earlier August.

Viewers noticed and heard Huff calling indicators within the huddle, then threatening a Bears receiver he thought-about to be taking liberties with him. “You do that again, you’ll get a broken nose,” Huff warned. “Don’t hit me on the chin with your elbow. I’m not going to warn you no more.”

Burton Benjamin, the documentary’s producer, later recalled in an article for The New York Times that the “violent world” reference “quickly became a part of the football lexicon.”

As Frank Gifford, the Giants’ Hall of Fame operating again and receiver, put it in his memoir “The Whole Ten Yards,” Huff turned “a household name.”

Robert Lee Huff — he couldn’t recall how he got here to be known as Sam — was born on Oct. 4, 1934, in Morgantown, W.Va., the son of a coal miner. He grew up in a mining camp referred to as Number Nine, exterior Farmington, W.Va.

Huff was an All-American at West Virginia University, a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound guard and sort out on each offense and protection. The Giants chosen him within the third spherical of the 1956 N.F.L. draft.

As a rookie, Huff performed within the Giants’ 47-7 victory over the Bears within the 1956 N.F.L. championship recreation, and he turned a key determine within the 4-3 alignment — 4 down linemen and three linebackers — put in by the Giants’ defensive coordinator, Tom Landry. Replacing the 5-2 scheme generally used, it put Huff at the center of the motion.

“Before, I always had my head down, looking right into the center’s helmet,” Huff recalled in his memoir “Tough Stuff” (1988, with Leonard Shapiro). “Now I was standing up and I could see everything, and I mean everything. I always had outstanding peripheral vision. It’s one of the reasons I was so perfectly suited for the position.”

The Giants’ excellent defensive linemen — Roosevelt Grier and Dick Modzelewski at sort out, Andy Robustelli and Jim Katcavage at finish — stored blockers away from Huff, serving to him to cease operating performs. And he ranged again or moved towards the sidelines to interrupt up passes, complementing the excellent defensive backs Emlen Tunnell, Jim Patton and Dick Nolan.

Huff “almost single-handedly influenced the first chants of ‘Defense, Defense’ in Yankee Stadium,” John Ok. Mara, the Giants’ president and chief govt, stated in a press release on Saturday.

Following their championship season of 1956, the Giants gained 5 division titles between 1958 and 1963, however they misplaced within the championship recreation every time.

The Giants determined to reshape a veteran crew following the 1963 season, after they gained a 3rd consecutive division title. They traded Huff to Washington for Dick James, a smallish operating again, and Andy Stynchula, a defensive finish.

Huff was shocked and angered, and the 2 gamers acquired by the Giants did little for them. As the Giants’ ageing stars departed, the crew descended into mediocrity. Huff gained retribution with Washington’s 72-41 victory over the Giants in November 1966, which he as soon as known as “the one game I wanted the most.”

He performed for Washington from 1964 to 1967, then retired, however he got here again for a last season as a participant and linebacker coach when Vince Lombardi was named Washington’s head coach in 1969.

Huff was later a longtime radio broadcaster for Washington video games and a advertising govt for the Marriott resort and resort chain. He additionally bred thoroughbred horses.

Besides his daughter, Catherine, he’s survived by his accomplice, Carol Holden; a son, Joseph; his former spouse, Mary Helen Fletcher Huff; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild, the household stated. Another son, Robert Jr., died in 2018. Huff’s marriage resulted in divorce within the late Nineteen Eighties.

For anybody unfamiliar with “The Violent World of Sam Huff,” the person within the center of the Giants’ superior protection underlined his credo in a 2002 interview for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I never let up on anybody,” Huff stated. “I don’t think I ever quit on a play. If you had the football, I was going to hit you, and when I hit you, I tried to hit you hard enough to hurt you. That’s the way the game should be played.”

Michael Levenson contributed reporting.