Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
"You play as hard and as tough as you can, but you play clean. We hit each other hard, sure. But this is a man’s game and any guy who doesn’t want to hit hard doesn’t belong in it.”
(West Virginia)...6'1'', 230...Robert Lee Huff ... All-American guard at West Virginia ... No. 3 draft pick, 1956 ... Inspirational leader, brilliant diagnostician with great speed, tackling ability ... Noted for hard-hitting duels with premier running backs ... Had 30 career interceptions ... Played in six NFL title games, five Pro Bowls ... All-NFL three years ... Top NFL linebacker, 1959 ... Redskins player-coach, 1969 ... Born October 4, 1934, in Morgantown, West Virginia ... Died November 13, 2021, at age of 87
Because his early NFL tenure was spent with a winning team in the multi-media maze of New York, Sam Huff became one of the most publicized of all pro gridders. At the age of 24, he appeared on a Time Magazine cover. He was the subject of a television special, '”The Violent World of Sam Huff.” Almost overnight, he became the symbol of the new glamour era for defensive football.
Sam was flooded with honors. He was named All-NFL three times, picked as the NFL's top linebacker in 1959 and selected for five Pro Bowls, four of them while he was with the Giants. The relatively new middle linebacker's job called for someone big enough to handle the power runners, fast enough to overhaul swift halfbacks and agile enough to protect against the passer.
To these attributes, Huff added a true love for the game and a unique ability to diagnose and disrupt the opponents' plays. Sam was best known for his hand-to-hand combat near the scrimmage line and for his duels with the likes of Jim Brown and Jim Taylor but he was also adept at pass defense. His 30 pass steals attest to that facet of his game.
In spite of his abundant talents, fate had to intervene several times to keep him out of the West Virginia coal mines. When Sam was a junior at Farmington High School, the West Virginia University coach came to town to look at a hot prospect but wound up recruiting Sam instead.
At the end of Huff's college career, Giants scout Al DeRogatis came to look at an All-America guard named Bruce Bosley. "Bosley is great," DeRogatis wired back, "but there's another guard here who will be even greater. His name is Sam Huff." Huff was a third-round draft pick in 1956 but, once in camp, things turned sour. Coach Jim Lee Howell agreed that Sam was a quality athlete but admitted he didn't know where to play him. Discouraged, Sam left camp and headed for the airport. There he was intercepted by assistant coach Vince Lombardi who lectured him on the merits of guts and determination and coaxed him back to camp.
Shortly after Sam's return, fate stepped in a final time. Ray Beck, the regular middle linebacker, was injured and Huff, in the emergency, got a chance to fill in. He did the job so well that Beck retired and Sam never had to worry about a regular football job – or the coal mine – again.
Full Name: Robert Lee Huff
Birthdate: October 4, 1934
Birthplace: Morgantown, West Virginia
High School: Farmington (W.Va)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 23, 1982
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 7, 1982
Presenter: Tom Landry, head coach, Cowboys and Huff's defensive coach with Giants
Other Members of Class of 1982: Doug Atkins, George Musso, Merlin Olsen
Pro Career: 13 seasons, 168 games
Drafted: 3rd round (30th overall) in 1956 by New York Giants
Uniform Number: 70
Sam Huff Enshrinement Speech 1982
Presenter: Tom Landry
Honorees, distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen. Two years ago, I had the pleasure of presenting Bob Lilly. The Dallas Cowboys first Hall of Famer and today I am receiving a second honor and presenting a equally deserving player to be added to this distinguished group.
My first glance of Sam Huff was in 1956 when he reported to our New York Giants training camp in Winooski, Vermont. At that time, he weighed about 6’1”, 230 What is offensive lineman and defensive lineman at the particular time in his career. I remember my first impression He looked like a young baby-faced looking athlete with a soft looking body, was not too impressive when I first found. So, it wasn't surprising to see him pack his bag along with Don Chandler and head for the airport after a few days in training camp. But unfortunately, the late Vince Lombardi intercepted him and persuaded him to come back. And I tell you that was the smartest decision Sam ever made. I figured then he was probably intelligent not to play middle linebacker for us. With Sam was a very dedicated player and a good student of the game period I never had any trouble with him. It's surprising either straighten up his act or go back to the coal mines of West Virginia. You know, it was amazing how quick he straightened up. I couldn't understand that decision. But when Ray Beck, our middle linebacker got hurt that year and we made that decision to move Sam into middle linebacker, I wasn't sure he would make that transition because it was a difficult one period however, it wasn't long before I realized his dedication And competitive attitude was obvious suited for this position. And this was a beginning of a friendship that lasted all these years.
I just retired in 1955 as a player-coach. I was really still more player than coach. I spent most of my years with the Giant players living around New York and different hotels and I remember my wife and I were in with the players at West 81st at Central Park and Mary and Sam decided to stay with us and that was a mistake Sam will probably remember because I used to call him after every night and I would say, ''Sam ,, what are you doing?'' and Sam, of course, couldn't say anything and I would say Sam come on down and we will learn the four/three defense and pro football. And so, he spent many nights with me in my apartment learning that particular skill. I am sure that Mary would have much rather been seeing the sights of New York City than spending her evenings in the hotel room, but I hope those days helped Sam in his professional career.
It is not often a rookie can move into a middle linebacker spot or a quarterback spot his first year and have his team win the NFL championship, as the New York Giants did that year against the Chicago Bears in 1956. And I will remind George and Doug and them that we beat them 47-7 and I kind of hate to mention that today because they are behind me, but it was a great day for the Giants anyway.
Any denying that Sam needed some help to achieve what he did up front. He had Cat Cavage, Mo Gileskie, Robustelli and Rosie Greer and that was a pretty good group to play behind in those days. However, it wasn't long before we realized that Sam was something special. He still maintained a useful soft look, but he didn't play like it and I think the opposing running backs really learned that in a hurry. I think we were all fortunate to play in coach in New York city in the late 50s which was the beginning of a new era in Pro Football. The bidding new industry called television was sweeping America and Pro Football rolled the crest of this popularity. Sam Huff became the symbol of public’s new awareness of defensive football. That has always been reserved before for the Jim Browns, Johnny Unitas’ and the other offensive stars. Who would that we would see the day that television would produce a special about a defensive player called “Violent World of Sam Huff.” But Sam never missed the opportunity he had when he became the middle linebacker of the New York Giants in 1956. In his eight years with New York he appeared in the NFL title game six times, he was named all pro four times, he played in the Pro Bowl game five times, for with the New York Giants. He was named the all-1950 team. he never missed a game with the Giants in uniform which continued as a redskin Until he was stopped at 150 games midway through the 1967 season. He announced his retirement at the end of that year. After a year’s layoff he returned as a player coach for Vince Lombardi who became the new head coach of the Washington Redskins. Sam's coaching career ended with Lombardi’s death the next summer period of course, Sam was born in Morgantown, West Virginia In 1934. He was christened Robert Lee Huff, but his father nicknamed him Sam and it stuck. he attended West Virginia University and played for coach Art Buck. He was discovered by an old teammate of mine with the New York Giants, Al DeRagitis, who was a scout with the Giants who went down to see another player and saw Sam and he liked what he saw and, of course, Sam came to New York.
He has a wonderful family, Mary his wife, and, of course, his sons, Sam & J.D. and certainly Cathy. My gratulations to Sam on this wonderful occasion and I join his family in their excitement today, it is my pleasure to present to you for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame a great football player and close friend, Mr. Sam Huff.
Well, thank you very much Coach Landry. After all these years it is just wonderful to know that you have a sense of humor.
I can't describe to you how great it is to be here because there is no way one can describe the feelings in five minutes of his lifetime accomplishments. But I want to take this opportunity to personally thank the man who taught me how to play pro football and, of course, that is Tom Landry. Without his teaching and guidance, I certainly would not be here today. And I appreciate the fact that he left his Dallas Cowboys in training camp in California to be here with me and I guess I will be forever indebted to him.
I would just like to say that today is the best day of my life and I would like to thank the selection committee for making it possible and also the wonderful people here in Canton, Ohio because you all have done such a tremendous job and have been so gracious to all four of us-- the pick and shovel group of the Hall of Fame.
You know as a boy coming from number nine call camp in the heart of the coalfields of Farmington, West Virginia, I never dreamed that I would be standing here before you all here today. There is really so much to be said and so little time to say it. And so many people have contributed to my life in and off the field. My family of course, as coach Landry had mentioned. My wife, Mary and daughter Cathy, my son Sam Jr. and J.D. who lived with my frustrations and my temperament. And my mother and father, who have passed away, would have loved to be here today and my sisters Mickey, Martha and my brother John. My younger brother Jody was unable to be here. But you know every athlete whoever played sports will always be indebted to his teachers, coaches and friends and I'm proud to have my first-grade teacher, Libby Romino, here with me today. Also, one of my very best friends who is in first grade is with me today, who tried to teach me Italian and I could not learn Italian, Leo Coceano. He was in high school at West Virginia University with me. And there is another close friend of mine today my high school cheerleader, Carol Godby. the class president of Farmington high is here with me where if we had five people walk down the street, we thought we were having a parade. And two of my teammates of West Virginia University, two great friends that I remained friends with all these years. A great fullback in his own right Tom Allman and Gene Lamone, a great guard who was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and unfortunately got hurt, are here and I do appreciate them very, very much. And I would like to mention my high school coach the late Art Louis and Tom Landry as we already said in 1956 changed me from a tackle position to a middle linebacker where I wore No. 70. Jim Lee Howell, head coach of the New York Giants, taught me discipline, and my last coach in 1969 with the Washington Redskins, the late, great Vince Lombardi. These people all contributed to my career and I am deeply grateful to all of them.
As Coach Landry says, no one makes the Hall of Fame by himself. You have to have help and I would just like to reiterate that I would not be here today without my New York Giants teammates, Jim Catcavage, Roosevelt Greer, Dick ''Mo'' Gileskie, Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli and another close friend who is here with us today, Harland Svare, another linebacker that maybe someday will be in the Hall of Fame like Nitschke, George and all those great linebackers. I see that Ray Nitschke out there and I know he is in this Hall of Fame and he represents it so well. And two of my teammates of the Washington Redskins are here, with me also, Sonny Jurgensen and Bobby Mitchell and I would like to give those two a great hand. It is so nice to have them here. I am so happy to have Bill Marriott and family. Bill just came from a very important meeting in St. Louis to be here with us today. I am just so grateful. I thank all of them for their guidance and confidence in me.
Now here is something I would like to share with you about a football player.
You can criticize him, but you can't discourage him. You can defeat his team, but you can't make him quit. You can get him out of the game, but you can't get him out of football.
He's your personal representative on the field... Your symbol of Fair and hard play.
He may not be in all American, but he is an example of the American way. He is judged not for his race, nor for his social standing, or not for his finances, but by the Democratic yardstick of how well he blocks, tackles and sacrifices individual glory for the overall success of his team.
He is a hardworking, untiring, determined kid... doing the very best you can for his team. And when you come out of this stadium disappointed and feeling upset that your team has lost, he can make you feel mighty ashamed with just two sincerely spoken words “we tried”.”
And That's why the four of us, Doug Atkins, George Musso, Merlin Olsen and I are here today... we tried to do our best.
I am deeply honored that all of my friends in the pick and shovel group are here with me today, the greatest day of my life. Thank you very much