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.
In my last column for the Loudoun Times-Mirror, I wrote about the Redskins’ 2011 schedule and the NFL draft, which are both completed now. The draft is always decisive in what happens later on the playing field, of course. Normally, each team gets players right out of college, and the players all have agents who seem to come out of the walls.
The number one draft choices will be receiving anywhere from 40 to 50 million dollar contracts from the owners of the teams. That diploma the rookie worked so hard to get is of little consequence by comparison. The players when they are drafted don’t hold up their diplomas; they usually hold up a football or jersey.
Now, the rookie has another agenda, his contract and his family. For those who are married, I know from experience what their wives’ first words will be, “Show me the money. Where is it? You have been to the big city, been on television and radio, been interviewed and given press conferences. I have been home taking care of the family.” After I went to New York for the first time, my dad told me, “You feel like you are king of the hill, but to me, it is just another day.”
The NFL, for some of these new players, could mean “not for long.” Going off to the NFL training camp is like being sent off to military training; there are few luxuries, no family and a great deal of grueling work.
My first year as a rookie, I almost quit the New York Giants. I knew Don Chandler from Oklahoma, which was a good deal like West Virginia in those days. He and I had played in the College All-Star Game in Chicago, and then we were sent to training camp in Vermont. After a few weeks of being screamed at constantly and our being homesick, we both decided to quit the Giants and even went to the airport to leave. Vince Lombardi, the offensive coach for the Giants at that time, stopped us and we went back to camp. What a difference that made in both our lives. He became one of the best kickers in NFL history, and I became a Hall of Fame linebacker. I greatly appreciate what football did for me.
Those rookies have a mountain to climb. Many will sit on the bench their first year. If and when they do play, those experienced linebackers will be coming at them trying to send them back where they came from. The hungry guys have a mind of their own, and they will make you pay for it. I did the same thing. I always respected my opponents, especially football greats like Jim Taylor and Jim Brown, but I tried to knock them out. Every time we went at each other we knew we were making national news, and we loved it.
All this has not changed a great deal. That’s why the National Football League games have become so popular. When CBS and Walter Cronkite made the documentary, “The Violent World of Sam Huff” years ago, they knew how popular the game would become.
It was war without guns. If those rookies tough it out, stay and play, they can become a part of the greatest sport ever. The future is now.