‘Born to play’: NFL star Sam Huff dies at age 87

Sports fans got some tragic news this weekend. According to the Washington Post, NFL Hall of Fame member Sam Huff died Saturday at the age of 87.

Huff had been diagnosed eight years prior with dementia, the Post said.

The legendary athlete is survived by two children, three grandchildren, a great-grandson, and his partner of over three decades, Carol Holden.

From a mining camp to the NFL

According to the Post, Huff rose up from humble beginnings in a coal mining camp to play for West Virginia University’s Mountaineers and then the New York Giants.

Huff rose to stardom with the NFL team in 1956 after its middle linebacker suffered an injury, the Post reported. He later became the first professional football player to ever appear on the cover of Time magazine.

“It was like I was born to play the position,” Huff once said, according to the Post.

According to Yahoo Sports, the footballer was also featured in a CBS special hosted by Walter Cronkite called “The Violent World of Sam Huff.” It included audio from a microphone that Huff was wearing, a practice that became common in subsequent years.

An interest in politics

Huff was later traded to Washington in what proved to be a controversial move by Giants head coach Allie Sherman. Huff remained in Washington until retiring at the end of the 1967 season, but returned for one additional season, serving as both a player and coach, in 1969, the Post said.

After leaving the league, he reportedly took a marketing job with the Marriott Corporation, where he eventually rose to the position of vice president.

In addition to his business career, Huff also dabbled in politics. As the Times West Virginian explained in a 2008 article, Huff returned to his native state to seek a seat in Congress but lost the Democratic primary election to incumbent Rep. Bob Mollohan.

Huff was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1982.

“You play as hard and tough as you, but you play clean,” he once said, according to his Hall of Fame profile. “We hit each other hard, sure. But this is a man’s game and any guy who doesn’t want to hit hard doesn’t belong in it.”

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