Sam Huff, the subject of a documentary series that was one of the earliest reality looks at NFL football, died Saturday. He was 87 and passed from “natural causes” in Winchester, Virginia, according to a family lawyer.
Huff was known as a hard-hitting linebacker, first for the New York Giants in the late ’50s and early ’60s, then for the Washington Redskins for four years.
The nature of his business was chronicled by CBS in the Walter Cronkite hosted series The Twentieth Century, a documentary television program. In the episode titled “The Violent World of Sam Huff.” the linebacker wore a microphone during practice and an exhibition game for the piece, becoming one of the earliest insider looks at the NFL.
Born in West Virginia’s coal country, Huff went on to star as a lineman at West Virginia University. He then was drafted by the New York Giants and became the star of a defensive scheme devised by legendary coach Tom Landry, who later became the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Huff won an NFL title in his rookie year, and was part of a Giants defensive dynasty that led to annual trips to the NFL title game.
“Sam was one of the greatest Giants of all-time. He was the heart and soul of our defense in his era. He almost single-handedly influenced the first chants of ‘Defense, defense’ in Yankee Stadium,” Giants team president John Mara said in a statement.
Huff was selected as the NFL’s top linebacker in 1959, and was selected overall for five Pro Bowls, four with the Giants and one with Washington.
After his playing career, Huff was a radio color man for the New York Giants for three years, then became a broadcaster with the Washington Redskins, where he spent 38 years calling games, starting in 1975. He called all three of Washington’s Super Bowl titles.
“Anyone who knew Sam knew what an amazing person he was,” WFT owners Tanya and Dan Snyder said in a statement. “He was an iconic player and broadcaster for the franchise for over 40 years and was a great friend to our family. He represented the franchise with honor and respect on the field and in the booth and was beloved by our fans. Tanya and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to all of Sam’s family and friends during this time.”
“He was an outstanding player on the gridiron and an even greater man off the field,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said.
No information on survivors or a memorail was immediately available.