Rick Snider: Ready to Huff and puff

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

Sam Huff is the toughest man you'll ever meet.

CBS once did a 30-minute documentary on him called "The Violent World of Sam Huff." The Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker once nearly tackled John Riggins in the Redskins Park parking lot after the two exchanged words following a practice. Huff was almost 50 years old at the time.

Spend any time with the Washington Redskins broadcaster and you'll see his hardscrabble boyhood roots. He grew up in a West Virginia coal town. Huff never wanted to work in the mines, and football was his escape. After he retired in 1969, Huff became a successful businessman -- only after he learned not to stare down others in meetings.

So it was a little shocking when Red Zebra Broadcasting recently announced the 77-year-old will work only 12 of 20 Redskins games this fall, skipping six regular-season and two pregame road games. It's a concession to time Huff would rather not make.

"When the day comes, you basically hope you know it," he said. "Everything comes to an end, but I'm going to do this as long as I can.

"Sonny [Jurgensen], Sam and Larry [Michael] are still on the air. Is it going to last all season? I don't know. I'm going to see how it works out."

Huff began broadcasting Redskins games in 1975, six years after finishing his career as a player/?coach during coach Vince Lombardi's sole season in Washington.

Huff and Jurgensen were paired in 1981 and have worked more than 600 games and three Super Bowl championships. Along with play-by-play man Frank Herzog, the trio was the town's most popular broadcast team for 23 years.

Jurgensen talks offense. Huff counters with defense. The banter is always entertaining and informative. The two are best friends, and it won't be easy for the relationship to split some weeks. Huff will journey only to New York and Dallas. The constant traveling taxed Huff in recent years even though he says he feels great and lost 10 pounds over the offseason.

"[Red Zebra officials are] concerned about me," Huff said. "[A split schedule is] typical in the NFL today. Frank Gifford doesn't do everything in New York.

"They think because I have age on me now I can't do what I do. ... Life gets shorter, and you can't do what you used to do as a player, as a coach. That's what great about broadcasting -- you don't get hit and you're part of the game."

Huff and Jurgensen arrived in the District in 1964, starring on losing teams until Lombardi's arrival. That's nearly a half century with the team -- a big reason many fans still listen to Redskins game on the radio.

"People love to hear us broadcast because we played the game here." Huff said. "People write letters to me saying they hope I stay with the team.

"As long as I can talk about this game that I love, I'm going to do it."

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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