Sam Huff, the Giants’ Corridor 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 mentioned Huff realized he had dementia in 2013.
Taking part in for the Giants of their glory years of the late Nineteen Fifties and early ’60s, Huff got here out of the West Virginia coal nation to anchor a protection that gained the form 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 Professional Bowls.
Huff was remembered for his head-on duels with two of the sport’s best fullbacks — the Cleveland Browns’ Jim Brown and the Inexperienced Bay Packers’ Jim Taylor — however he additionally had 30 profession interceptions. He was inducted into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 1982.
Yankee Stadium, the Giants’ dwelling on the time, reverberated to chants of “DEE-fense” and “Huff, Huff, Huff” within the late Nineteen Fifties as one of many 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 — virtually a yr after the thrilling sudden-death N.F.L. title sport 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 Sport,” an article in that problem 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,” a part of the collection “The Twentieth Century.”
A microphone and a transmitter had been positioned on Huff’s shoulder pads for an exhibition sport in opposition to the Chicago Bears in Toronto the earlier August.
Viewers noticed and heard Huff calling alerts within the huddle, then threatening a Bears receiver he thought of to be taking liberties with him. “You try this once more, you’ll get a damaged nostril,” Huff warned. “Don’t hit me on the chin along with your elbow. I’m not going to warn you no extra.”
Burton Benjamin, the documentary’s producer, later recalled in an article for The New York Instances that the “violent world” reference “shortly turned part of the soccer lexicon.”
As Frank Gifford, the Giants’ Corridor of Fame operating again and receiver, put it in his memoir “The Entire Ten Yards,” Huff turned “a family title.”
Robert Lee Huff — he couldn’t recall how he got here to be referred to 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 Quantity 9, exterior Farmington, W.Va.
Huff was an All-American at West Virginia College, a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound guard and deal with 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 sport, 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. Changing the 5-2 scheme generally used, it put Huff on the coronary heart of the motion.
“Earlier than, I all the time had my head down, wanting proper into the middle’s helmet,” Huff recalled in his memoir “Robust Stuff” (1988, with Leonard Shapiro). “Now I used to be standing up and I might see all the pieces, and I imply all the pieces. I all the time had excellent peripheral imaginative and prescient. It’s one of many causes I used to be so completely suited to the place.”
The Giants’ excellent defensive linemen — Roosevelt Grier and Dick Modzelewski at deal with, 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 very good defensive backs Emlen Tunnell, Jim Patton and Dick Nolan.
Huff “virtually single-handedly influenced the primary chants of ‘Protection, Protection’ in Yankee Stadium,” John Okay. Mara, the Giants’ president and chief govt, mentioned in an announcement on Saturday.
Following their championship season of 1956, the Giants gained 5 division titles between 1958 and 1963, however they misplaced within the championship sport every time.
The Giants determined to reshape a veteran crew following the 1963 season, once 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. Because the Giants’ getting older 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 referred to as “the one sport I wished essentially the most.”
He performed for Washington from 1964 to 1967, then retired, however he got here again for a closing 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.
Moreover 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 mentioned. One other son, Robert Jr., died in 2018. Huff’s marriage led to divorce within the late Nineteen Eighties.
For anybody unfamiliar with “The Violent World of Sam Huff,” the person in the course of the Giants’ superior protection underlined his credo in a 2002 interview for the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame.
“I by no means let up on anyone,” Huff mentioned. “I don’t suppose I ever give up on a play. In case you had the soccer, I used to be going to hit you, and after I hit you, I attempted to hit you arduous sufficient to harm you. That’s the best way the sport must be performed.”
Michael Levenson contributed reporting.