By Cam Huffman
The countdown for the season-opening Friends of Coal Bowl pitting West Virginia University against Marshall University on the gridiron Sept. 1 in Morgantown continues, but that’s not the one WVU legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Sam Huff has circled on his calendar.
Huff, whose No. 75 is one of only two retired numbers in WVU football history, will be honored during the Virginia 529 College Savings Classic on Sept. 15 when the Mountaineers meet up with James Madison University at FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins.
Huff played six seasons for the Redskins. He was named one of the 70 greatest Redskins and is a part of the organization’s Ring of Fame. He later became a broadcaster for the Washington, D.C., team, where he still works today.
On what has been designated as “Sam Huff Day” when the Mountaineers visit the Redskins’ home stadium, Huff’s two great loves will be combined.
“It’s a wonderful affair, and it should be at FedEx Field, because people from West Virginia can drive to the game,” Huff told the Washington Redskins in an online interview Wednesday. “I think they’re going to sell it out. FedEx Field is not that far from Morgantown.
“We’re going to have all the Mountaineers there, and they’ll wear their (WVU apparel). Hopefully they don’t bring their muskets with them. It’s a special time for me to have all of these people coming from my home state. It’s really enjoyable, and I’ve never had anything like this.”
A native of Marion County, Huff grew up going to the No. 9 Coal Camp grade school and later Farmington High School, and he still vividly remembers dreaming of becoming a Mountaineer.
“It was the only team,” said Huff. “There was no Fairmont State College then. It was West Virginia University on the radio. This was before television, and whenever they came on the air, you were listening to every pass, every punt, who’s playing tackle, who’s playing guard and who’s the quarterback. It’s a major part of West Virginia. It’s in your blood.”
Huff got the opportunity to play for his home state university, where he was a four-year letterman and helped lead WVU to the 1954 Sugar Bowl. He was an All-American in 1955 and played in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
“I listened to coaches,” he said, giving WVU plenty of credit for his development as a football player. “Art Lewis was the head coach, and he had played professional football. If you got out of line, he grabbed you by the shirt and lifted you off the ground. That’s the kind of background that I had, and I’ll never forget it.
“Once you go to a university like West Virginia, you’ll always be part of it, and I feel part of it. It brings back a lot of memories.”
Huff was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round of the 1956 NFL Draft, and he played in New York for eight seasons, after an assistant coach named Vince Lombardi convinced him not to walk away during a frustrating rookie year.
He eventually excelled under defensive coordinator Tom Landry’s new 4-3 defense, moving from defensive line to middle linebacker.
By the time his career was over, he was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and he was named to the 1950s All-Decade Team following his career.
Huff will be WVU’s honorary captain for the Sept. 15 game, scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff, and he’ll also be recognized at halftime. There will be special video messages for Huff on the FedEx Field scoreboard throughout the game.
“Sam Huff is one of the all-time great Mountaineers, and this will certainly be a special day playing in the home of the Washington Redskins and honoring one of the NFL’s greatest legends,” said WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck. “We have a great fan base in the D.C. area, and we are certainly looking forward to honoring Sam for his major contributions to the game of football as a Mountaineer and a Redskin.”
Tickets for the game are still available at www.wvugame.com or at www.ticketmaster.com.
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