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Flashback: Huff Always the Man In the Middle

Sam Huff played the game of football with a take-no-prisoners mentality.

The Hall of Famer is still known for his simple philosophy: "Get the man with the football."

The prototypical linebacker of his era, he set the tone and the standard for his generation and for those to come.

Over the course of his 13-year NFL career (the first eight with the New York Giants and the final five with the Washington Redskins), which spanned from 1956-1969, Huff was a consistently dominant force on the football field, playing in 168 games and accruing a career total of 30 interceptions.

In addition, he was a key factor in taking the Giants to six championship games during his time in New York. He was selected to five Pro Bowls in his career.

Still a huge fan and supporter of the game, Huff has been a Redskins broadcaster for the past 30 years, calling games with his close friend and former teammate, quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. While he still loves the game, he is forthright about some of the changes he finds objectionable.

"They've changed the rules so much to try to help the offenses--let the offensive players have their arms out and hold a lot more than they used to," he stated. "It's almost like professional wrestling. They have never changed the rules to improve the defense. They've changed every rule to try to help the offense so they can score more points. I wish they'd left it alone."

Interestingly, while football has now been a central element in his life for more than four decades, Huff initially intended to be a teacher--an occupation that paid more than professional sports did when he was starting out.

"I never even had a dream of playing professional football, but the New York Giants drafted me No. 3 out of West Virginia University. They just wrote you a letter back then and told you they'd drafted you. I just looked at it as an opportunity. Originally I made plans to graduate from college and be a high school teacher and coach. When I got drafted by the Giants, I changed those plans.

"It was something different and exciting," he continued. "I loved the game of football, but I also played baseball. I signed a baseball contract before I ever signed a football contract. I went to play Class A with the Reading Indians in Reading, Pennsylvania, but they never put me in a game so I went to the New York Giants."

As for his baseball dreams, he may not have played, but ultimately he did get to rub elbows with some of the best. When Huff was with the Giants, they were still playing at Yankee Stadium where, in addition to sharing the playing field when their seasons overlapped, they also used the same locker room as the New York Yankees players.

So, with whom did Huff share a locker? None other than the great Mickey Mantle.

Now at age 68, with his playing days long over, he is still able to spot greatness on the field the minute he sees it. In fact, one young linebacker caught his eye even before he officially entered the league.

Before the 2000 NFL Draft, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, with Washington holding the second overall pick, approached Huff about giving his input knowing the team would be pursuing a linebacker.

Huff agreed, and after LaVar Arrington was selected and arrived in Washington, Huff was there to greet him.

"I introduced myself to him," Huff recalled, "and he said, 'I have heard of you.' And I said, 'I have heard of you, and you're going to be a great one.' And he is. He's got so much talent. He's not quite as mean as I was, but he's faster."

Huff was so impressed with the young player that he has involved him, peripherally, in yet another sport that the West Virginia native participates in: horse racing. Huff, who got into that sport 17 years ago, now owns (with his partner) 20 horses, including one named LaVar Arrington as a tribute to the linebacker.

The "Man in the Middle" has certainly spent his life in the middle of it all.

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