West Virginia

The Benevolent World of Sam Huff




Fittingly, a blustery early winter freeze arrived in Morgantown for last Thursday’s annual “Backyard Brawl” pitting the hometown West Virginia Mountaineers against the Pitt Panthers. It was this type of weather that once kept the nearby coal mines busy enough to provide a meager living for many of the parents and grandparents of those in attendance on this special Thanksgiving evening.  Sam Huff will never forget the physical toll that those coal mines took on his father, uncles and cousins in order for the family to put food on the table. This would not be Sam’s destiny. Although he would put forth the same effort that the other men in his family had made in the coal mines he chose to work between the goal lines.

On this evening West Virginia University officially retired Sam Huff’s jersey number “75” to honor the outstanding effort and skill that he exhibited during his college gridiron. In those days the team played at the original or "Old Mountaineer Field," which was in the downtown area of Morgantown a few miles away from where they now play. During the weather shortened ceremony, Sam departed from tradition and did not raise the gleaming authentic reproduction of his WVU helmet over his head to acknowledge the honors being bestowed upon him. Instead, he extended this sacred shell of history forward in the direction of the roaring capacity crowd. Was Sam sharing this glory with all those in the audience whose lives were improved, as his was, due to the sacrifices incurred in those West Virginia coal mines by their forefathers? No coal miner ever had his badge number retired and none were ever honored with their mining helmet. The only ceremony a coal miner had ever previously received was after a mine had tragically collapsed upon him. Was Sam’s subtle gesture forever correcting this past injustice?

Only one man will ever know the complete mindset of Sam Huff on this cold but memorable evening. But for those who were fortunate enough to watch him play football it was transparent that he played with the same dedication, pride and courage that was passed down though his family and by the hard working coal mining community in West Virginia. Hopefully, the proud glow of honor will always reflect a bit brighter upon all of them after last Thursday evening’s ceremony.

Please click on the helmet above for more information on the History of Sam Huff