Washington Football Team legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Sam Huff died Saturday of natural causes at Winchester (Va.) Medical Center, according to family lawyer Deborah Matthews. He was 87.
Huff’s many accomplishments in the sport include being named to the All-Decade team in the 1950s, making the Pro Bowl five times and being inducted into both Washington’s Ring of Fame and the New York Giants’ Ring of Honor.
He is survived by two children, Catherine Huff Myers of Alexandria, Va. and Joseph D. Huff of Fort Pierce, Fla; three grandchildren, Timothy N. Huff, Mary C. Huff and Robert L. Huff III; a great-grandson, Robert L. Huff IV; and his partner Carol Holden. He was predeceased by son Robert Lee Huff, Jr. in 2018.
Washington Football Team owners Daniel and Tanya Snyder released a statement.
Huff helped the Giants win the 1956 NFL Championship and was a key player on the field in the “Greatest Game Ever Played” – the 1958 NFL championship between New York and the Baltimore Colts won by Baltimore in double overtime 23-17.
During his playing days, Huff was a linebacker’s linebacker. The West Virginia native was as feared a hitter in the game, yet he also was a force against the pass. In his 13-season career, Huff notched 30 interceptions to go along with his countless, devastating takedowns.
After finishing college at West Virginia, where he was an All-American offensive lineman, Huff broke into the pros with the New York Giants in 1956. He entered camp as a guard — the position he played in school — but the then-New York coach didn’t like his fit there at the next level. Legend has it that Huff departed camp for the airport, where an assistant on the staff by the name of Vince Lombardi convinced him to head back and keep playing. Huff got his chance to fill in for an injured middle linebacker upon his return. No coach questioned his fit from then on.
In 1964, Washington acquired Huff in a trade after his decorated time with the Giants. It was a move that Huff said he’d “never forgive” his former franchise for. Ultimately, the linebacker got his revenge in the most satisfying of ways, as his new team beat his old one, 72-41, which is still a record for most combined points in a single game. Huff’s side totaled 10 touchdowns and famously kicked a field goal with just seconds remaining to boost their lead from 28 to 31. That was a strategic decision Huff no doubt loved.
Huff took the 1968 season off, but came back to play for Lombardi in the Green Bay Packers legend’s one season as Washington’s coach in 1969 before he retired for good. Soon thereafter, he became a radio fixture for the Burgundy and Gold.
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Sam Huff," Hall of Fame President Jim Porter said in a statement. "He was an outstanding player on the gridiron and an even greater man off the field. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sam’s family during this difficult time. The Hall of Fame will forever guard his legacy. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Sam’s memory.”
Huff eventually teamed up with Frank Herzog and Sonny Jurgensen to form an iconic and beloved trio on radio during the organization’s best days and Super Bowl runs. He retired from the role in 2013, after a 38-year tenure on the broadcasts.
As a 25-year-old, Huff appeared on the cover of Time magazine, and he delivered the following line that sums up his playing style to perfection: “We try to hurt everybody. We hit each other as hard as we can. This is a man’s game.”
Those are three sentences that nearly every top defender would relate to, and tells you all you need to know about Huff’s approach to football.