Sam Huff column: My buddies and the Hall of Fame
Sam Huff was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. Huff, a Middleburg resident, played in the National Football League from 1956 through 1969 as a linebacker with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.
I went to the the 2011 Hall of Fame Ceremonies in Canton, Ohio. Canton is a wonderful city, and I had a great time while I was there. For those who are NFL fans, I highly recommend that you take the time to go to Canton. The people in charge there know how to manage a major event, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrations are world-class events.
The National Football Museum, Inc. is locally controlled. Other than President/Executive Director Steve Perry, there are 33 members of the Board of Directors, including Chairperson Tom Schervish, Commissioner Roger Goodell, nine team owners, three HOF members, and a number of business and community leaders. Ron Dougherty is a former director and legal advisor for the organization; Ron’s brother, John Dougherty and his wife Sandy, are well known in Middleburg, Va., and friends of mine.
One of my friends and former teammate, Chris Hanburger, was inducted this year into the Hall of Fame. I was traded to the Redskins in 1964, and Chris started playing for the Redskins in 1965. I was defensive player-coach at the time, and I coached him. He was like a son to me. Chris was very coachable. He had grown up in a military family and was very organized; that helped tremendously.
I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Chris during the Hall of Fame ceremonies. I will have to tell you, being inducted is a paradox; it’s both highly elating and humbling. Truthfully, the experience is overwhelming. I had never seen Chris so mellow. Despite all his protests regarding the attention he got, which he deserved, he obviously enjoyed what was happening to him. I did too.
I remember my experience when I was inducted back in 1982. It was one of the best days of my life. I had tears in my eyes and my wife, Mary Helen Huff, cried. The NFL is a buddy system, and its Hall of Fame is a fraternity of brothers who have made what some think is first place in America’s favorite sport. Remember I have always said this is war without guns. If a football player gets to the top, if he plays well through college, if he goes to the pros, and then if he is inducted, he has had to fight on the way up, constantly and unrelentingly. But as Vince Lombardi used to say, “Your problems begin when you get to the top.”
The Hall of Fame is very rewarding, but there is a great deal of responsibility that’s part of the award. Think of all the young players out there who watch the NFL channel and watch not only what the members do or did as football players, but know their life stories. We need to remember the message we are sending. Being a member of the Pro- Football Hall of Fame is an honor to be respected.
I saw a good many of my friends while I was there. Can you believe while I was on the bus with other former Hall of Fame players, Jim Taylor was sitting behind me? Jim was my old adversary when the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers were both after the big trophies and championships. Sports writers loved the conflict between us. They pumped it up. We tried to kill each other. I tackled him so hard in one game I dented my helmet, knocked him out and knocked myself out. That helmet is in the National Football Museum. There on that bus we were suddenly friends—- we laughed, we shook hands and we reminisced. We met again back at the hotel, friends now, almost like teammates.
While I was there, I signed a lot of books. I have a new autobiography out, “Controlled Violence,” published by Triumph Books. We all like making money, a benefit of the hard-earned fame. Really though, if you want to know what I enjoy the most — seeing my friends at the Hall of Fame ceremonies and savoring those very special moments of the game.
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