Sam Huff Once Was The Most Important Player In The NFL

Huff became the face of the league in a magazine and a TV show as the NFL grew more popular.

If you read or watch a documentary on the most important people in the National Football League’s chaotic and in many ways a business without a plan for the future rise from mom-and-pop store operations to a multibillion-dollar business, the name Sam Huff is never mentioned. But Sam Huff, who played in New York and was a violent player on the field at Yankee Stadium for a very good football team, is a transformational figure. Huff recently passed away at the age of 87. In the late 1950s, Huff became the face of the NFL. Huff was a Giants linebacker who would deliver devastating hits on his opponents.

Football is a game built on violence and has been sold to the public that way and Huff played the part. In 1960, a CBS television program that included a segment called, “The Violent World of Sam Huff”. Huff was the first NFL player to appear on the cover of the very influential Time Magazine in 1959. The caption on the cover photo read. “A Man’s Game.” There was a debate during that time whether Huff was the best linebacker in the NFL. People in the Midwest thought Chicago’s Bill George and Detroit’s Joe Schmidt were better. But neither George nor Schmidt played in New York. Huff’s Giants team won the NFL title in 1956 and Giants players became celebrities. Madison Avenue created commercials and the New York CBS TV station carried Giants games. Giants players were the darlings of media executives in New York. Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote and Pat Summerall became TV personalities. Dick Nolan’s picture was on a building in Times Square for a cigarette company with smoke coming out of his mouth as if the picture was smoking a cigarette. Huff was a tough, violent player perfect for the growing NFL business.

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Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jerome Baker (55) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)