Sam Huff, 87, Passes: NFL Legend Played Big Role In West Virginia’s Thoroughbred Industry

Sam Huff and his partner Carol Holden were driving back to their West Virginia home after attending the inaugural Maryland Million races at Laurel Park in 1986 when Huff came up with the idea of having a similar day for state-breds.

“We’re going to do that in West Virginia,” Huff said, according to a 2011 article by Tom LaMarra.

Sure enough, they did.  The first West Virginia Breeders’ Classic was held at Charles Town Races less than a year later, thanks to Huff’s tireless advocacy for horses bred in West Virginia and fueled by a fiercely competitive personality that earlier in life made him among the most feared players in the National Football League.

Huff and Holden sold sponsorships for the event and found additional revenue from uncashed pari-mutuel tickets. The initial running, which included Charles Town’s first-ever $100,000 race, was a success, and it’s steadily grown over the years, becoming second only to Charles Town Classic day.

The couple also bred and raced horses in West Virginia and hosted a radio show, Trackside, that ran for 28 years, ending in 2016, when Huff began suffering from dementia. His condition led to a court fight later that year between Holden and Huff’s daughter over his custody and care.

Huff died on Saturday in Winchester, Va., at the age of 87.

Born Robert Lee Huff on Oct. 4, 1934, in Edna, W.Va., Huff was called Sam at early age and never learned why, according to a 1988 autobiography. Growing up in Coal Camp No. 9, he was from a family of coal miners but escaped that occupation when he accepted a football scholarship to West Virginia University, where he played both offensive and defensive line positions and was named an All-American before being drafted by the New York Giants in the third round of the 1956 NFL draft.

During his years in the National Football League, Huff was known for an aggressive defensive style that led CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite to narrate a documentary, “The Violent World of Sam Huff,” that aired as part of the network’s “Twentieth Century” series. As the leader of the New York Giants defense, he helped the team reach the NFL title game six times in eight years before being traded to the team then known as the Washington Redskins, where he finished out his career and worked as a commentator on the team’s radio broadcasts for 38 years, retiring in 2013.

Huff was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.


The post Sam Huff, 87, Passes: NFL Legend Played Big Role In West Virginia’s Thoroughbred Industry appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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