Huff played eight seasons with the New York Giants and is seen as one of the best defenders in team history.
Former New York Giants linebacker Sam Huff passed away on Saturday at the age of 87. Huff’s passing of natural causes was first reported by the Associated Press.
“Sam was one of the greatest Giants of all time,” Giants President/CEO John Mara said in a team statement. “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.”
Born in Edna, WV in 1934, Huff burst onto the national football scene at West Virginia University, where he earned All-American honors in 1955. The Giants chose Huff in the third round of the 1956 NFL Draft. Working alongside defensive coordinator Tom Landry, Huff became one of the first stars of the 4-3 defense.
Their collaboration guided the Giants to an 8-3-1 record in 1956, a year that ended in the NFL Championship Game, where Huff became a rare rookie starter. Behind a dominant defensive effort, the Giants crushed the Chicago Bears by a 47-7 final. Huff and the Giants visited the NFL title game five more times, the most famous appearance being the overtime loss to the Baltimore Colts in 1958, a contest often referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.
In eight seasons with the Giants, Huff earned 18 interceptions and appeared in four Pro Bowls. He earned MVP honors during the 1961 exhibition alongside Baltimore quarterback Johnny Unitas. Huff became one of the faces of the NFL’s pre-Super Bowl era, notably appearing on the cover of Time magazine in November 1959.
Huff’s New York career ended in 1964 through the controversial purge of the Giants’ defense by head coach Allie Sherman, which also bid farewell to defenders like Rosey Grier and Don Chandler. The Giants traded Huff to the Washington Redskins in exchange for running back Dick James and defensive lineman Andy Stynchula, each of whom were off the team by 1966. Huff could go on to play four seasons in Washington before retiring in 1967. Former Giants coach Vince Lombardi convinced Huff to partake in one more season when he assumed head duties in 1969.
After retiring from on-field endeavors for good, Huff spent time in both the Giants and Redskins’ radio booths. Away from the field, Huff made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the House of Representatives before enjoying a lucrative career with the Marriott Corporation. Huff helped facilitate a deal that would book NFL teams into Marriott hotels for away games. He’d be inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor during its debut year in 2010, 28 years after he was enshrined in Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Huff is survived by two of his children, Catherine and Joseph. His son Robert Jr. previously passed in 2018.
The modern Giants return to action on Nov. 22 against Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags