NY Giants: The Giants 1st Great MLB – Sam Huff
By Michael Stewart
The New York Giants have a long history of producing great linebackers and that tradition was arguably initiated when the Giants drafted Sam Huff in the 1956 NFL draft. Huff, played the Defensive line in college and was originally not viewed as a linebacker by the Giants and was having a difficult time adjusting to the NFL and briefly wanted to give up his dream as an NFL player.
Luckily, Assistant Coach Vince Lombardi convinced Huff from the airport to return and give it one more shot. Immediately following Huff’s return, Defensive Coordinator Tom Laudry developed the 4-3 defense and envisioned Huff as the MLB. At the time, Ray Beck was the starting MLB for the Giants until a game against the Chicago Cardinals, Beck got injured and Huff replaced him and never relinquished his starting spot. That year, with Huff as the MLB, the Giants went on to win the Eastern Conference Title; which followed with the Giants winning the NFL Championship. At that time, Huff became the 1st rookie to start in an NFL Championship game.
In the 1958 season, the Giants returned to the NFL Championship Game again; which was named “the greatest game ever played” against the Baltimore Colts. This was the 1st game to go into sudden death overtime to determine the winner; in which the Baltimore Colts triumphed over the Giants 23-17.
Once again, the Giants returned to the NFL Championship Game in 1959 and faced the Baltimore Colts only to lose by a score of 31-16. During that season, Huff was the 1st NFL player to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. Also, Huff was featured on a 1960 CBS TV special entitled “The Violent World of Sam Huff” where the network wired Huff for sound in practice and exhibition game.
The Giants continued their supremacy under new coach Allie Sherman and returned to the NFL Championship Game in 1961,1962 and 1963 but unfortunately they lost all three. That was the beginning of the end for that great Giant teams as HC Allie Sherman cleaned house with numerous trades which included Sam Huff going to the Washington Redskins in 1964. The trade was not welcomed by the Giant fans as when Huff returned to play against his former team; the fans would cheer Huff-Huff-Huff to show their support.
Huff’s career was filled with honors which included: 4 consecutive Pro Bowls for the Giants (1959-1963) and was named most valuable player in the 1961 Pro Bowl. Other honors for Huff were 5 Pro Bowls, 4x 1st team All-Pro, two-time 2nd team All-Pro, NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, Ring of Honor for both the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.
Sam Huff truly set the stage for the great New York Giants tradition of linebackers that have worn the blue and white uniforms over the last 60 years. He was a leader and a true competitor on the field and was a major player with those great Giant teams in mid 1950’s to early 1960’s. When asked “what do you regret the most during your career”, Huff quickly responded “not winning more Championships as a Giant”; which shows he was truly a team player.