Hall of Fame player Sam Huff has died at the age of 87

Hall of Fame player Sam Huff has died at the age of 87

Sam Huff, the all-powerful Hall of Fame player who helped the New York Giants reach six NFL title games from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s and later became a popular player and announcer in Washington, died Saturday. He was 87 years old.

Deborah Matthews, a lawyer for Huff’s daughter, Catherine Half-Myers, told The Associated Press that Hoff died of natural causes in Winchester, Virginia. An obituary issued by the Giants said Huff was diagnosed with dementia in 2013.

Huff will always be remembered as the angry quarterback in the 4-3 scheme developed by fellow Hall of Famer Tom Landry, his defensive coordinator with New York and later the architect of the Dallas Cowboys’ rise to power.

Growing up in the coal-mining country of West Virginia, Hof became a two-time professional in a career that stretched from 1956 to 1969, regularly bumping into the likes of Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, and other runners.


“Sam was one of the greatest Giants of all time. He was the heart and soul of our defense of his era. He almost single-handedly influenced the first chants of ‘Defence, Defense’ at Yankee Stadium,” said team boss Jon Mara in a statement.

Huff’s biggest regret was to win only one of his title games, the championship in the junior season when the Giants crushed the Chicago Bears 47-7 at Yankee Stadium.

Hof was named the NFL Player of the Year in 1959. He went on to five professional players, four with the Giants and one with Washington.

“Anyone who knows Sam knows what a wonderful person he is,” said Dan and Tanya Snyder, owners of Washington. “He has been an iconic player and broadcaster for the franchise for over 40 years and has been a great friend to our family. He represented the franchise with honor and respect on the pitch at the booth and was loved by our fans.”

The baby-faced Half became the second NFL player to appear on the cover of Time magazine, which appeared on November 30, 1959. Bobby Lane appeared five years earlier.


“Twentieth Century,” a television documentary hosted by Walter Cronkite on CBS that began in the late 1950s, once aired a trailer for it called “The Violent World of Sam Huff.” Hof wore a microphone during training and a game show for the piece.

He knocked out West Virginia in the third round in 1956, and played Hove in New York from 1956 to 63. He was traded to Washington before the 1964 season and played there for the next four seasons. He retired after the ’67 season, sat down the following year and returned for one final season in 1969 as player-coach under Vince Lombardi.

When Hof was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1982, he said footballers could not be discouraged and would not quit, even if he was beaten in a game. He believed in playing fair and hard.

“It may not be entirely American, but it is an example of the American way,” Huff said in his introduction letter. “He was judged not by his race, nor by his social standing, or not by his finances, but by the democratic measure of how well he had stood up to, dealt with, and sacrificed individual glory for the overall success of his team.”


After his playing days were over, Hof found another career behind the mic.

Hof spent three seasons working as a color commentator for the Giants on radio before moving on to a similar job with Washington, spending 38 years in gaming contact, starting in 1975.

From 1981 to 2012, his longtime broadcast partner was his former Washington teammate, quarterback Sonny Jorgensen. They shot all three of the Super Bowl titles in Washington.

Hof was a regular full-back. He had the determination and strength to take on the power at the time, and he had the speed to cover his back on the passing roads. He had 30 interceptions, 17 recoveries and five touchdowns.

After graduating from college, Hof did not have an easy transition to the NFL. The Giants initially used it as an offensive move – hence the number 70 he’s always worn.

Hof did not feel comfortable there, and soon after the training camp opened in 1956, Hof got tired and left. Lombardi, then an assistant coach for the Giants, caught him on his way to the airport and convinced him to return, suggesting he would be better than the West Virginia coal miners.


Landry eventually developed a 4-3 defense, which was a better fit for the portable Huff and was switched to the quarterback behind Ray Beck. Landry used to bring the Apprentice to his New York apartment and they would spend the nights discussing the defenses.

Half learned and developed the ability to read and disable plays. When Beck was injured on October 7, 1956, Huff took over and the rest became part of the Hall of Fame story.

Robert Lee “Sam” Huff was born on October 4, 1934 at a mining camp in Edna, West Virginia. His father and two brothers worked in coal mines and lived in a small house with no running water.

Huff was a two-way line guy in high school and went to West Virginia, where he played a bouncer as a sophomore and interfering in his last two years.

“Mountaineer Nation is saddened to learn of the passing of WVU football legend Sam Huff. What a mountaineer who has always looked after and loved his university,” Shane Lyons, director of HHH, said in a statement.


After retiring as a player, Hof coached for a year with Washington in 1970. He soon took a job in marketing with Marriott and worked until 1998.


AP sports writer Stephen Winno contributed to this report.


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