Sam Huff New York Giants & Washington Redskins

"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.”

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.