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Up Close with Sam Huff

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Sam Huff was one of the greatest players in West Virginia Mountaineers history. A linebacker from the mining town of Edna Gas, WV, Huff was a Mountaineer from 1952-1955 before embarking on a Hall of Fame NFL career with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins.

September 15, 2012 was Sam Huff Day at Fex-Ex Field in Washington, DC, as WVU took on James Madison. The Voice of the Mountaineers, Tony Caridi, spoke with Huff earlier this year.

TC: Growing up, it looked like your fate was sealed and you’d work in the mines your whole life, but you ended up going to West Virginia University. Did you dream of doing that growing up?
Yeah I did. It was the only team then. There was no Fairmont State College. It was West Virginia University. And on the radio, OK. This was before television, and whenever they came on the air, you were into that radio and listening to every bit of it – every pass, every punt, who’s playing tackle and who’s playing guard and who’s at quarterback. It’s a great part of West Virginia, West Virginia University is – it’s in your blood.

TC: When you went to West Virginia, did you have the feeling you’d have success as a football player? You never shied away from a hit and you’re a very confident individual, but did you have any kind of a learning curve when you went to West Virginia?
No. I listened to coaches. All my life I’ve listened to coaches and managers. That’s what they do. Art Lewis was the head coach. He had played professional football. He was a big man, and he was the head coach. You got out of line, he grabbed you by the shirt and he lifted you off the ground, and he said, “Boy when I put you down you better run!” 

(And you said), “OK. OK Pappy, put me down, I’ll run.”

So that was the kind of background that I had, from a guy that played professional football – Art “Pappy” Lewis, and I’ll never forget it.

TC: You’ve been recognized as one of the all-time greats, of not just West Virginia football, but of West Virginia sports history. When you go back to Morgantown, how do you feel?
I feel a part of it. That’s where you went to school. I went to grade school at No. 9 Coal Camp. My dad worked in the coal mines. We had elementary school and there was no grass – it was all slate, poured around the school in the yard. And that’s where the consolidated coal company dumped their trash – at the school. But you played in it anyway.

Blair Wolf was the teacher and the coach at the elementary school, and he taught us baseball, taught us football and everything else. He gave us all the fundamentals. I don’t know if he’s still alive or not, but he taught us all the right way.

TC: How special will it be when they honor you at the West Virginia game?
Well, it’s something that you dream about. Going to grade school, Farmington High School and getting a scholarship to West Virginia University. And I became an Photo courtesy of West Virginiaimmediate football player. That’s what it’s all about. I went to class, graduated on time and I was an All-American there. That’s what makes you.

You have a coach, like Art Lewis – that’s the kind of coaching I had. I went from Art Lewis at West Virginia University to Tom Landry in New York. He never grabbed me, he just preached to me all the time.

It’s a special time in life. A special time for me in my life now. People coming from my home state is really enjoyable foe me. I’ve never gone to anything like this.

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