He laughed heartily at the memory. Telling those stories, time and again, from the days when pro football was only beginning to take hold of America are when Huff is at his best, when he’s clearly having fun. Then he turned to the wall again.
“That’s Tom Landry,” he said. “And over there’s Lombardi.”
Upstairs from Huff’s desk is Holden’s office and a radio studio. For a quarter-century, Holden and Huff have broadcast a weekly show called “Trackside,” dedicated to any and all issues in the horse racing industry. The entrance to their Middleburg property is marked by signs on either side of the driveway, “Huff Farm” and “Sporting Life Stable.”
“Sam has always been good about letting me have my own identity,” said Holden, who took her part of the name from an old British sports magazine.
Holden and Huff have bought and sold horses time and again, grown attached to them and moved on. Their late filly Bursting Forth won multiple graded stakes races more than a decade ago, and Huff was rarely as happy in his post-football life as he was watching her win. Now, they have scaled back, and the farm is home to a few old horses and a couple of donkeys.
“Trackside,” though, is still produced every week, even as some of the stations on which it was broadcast have disappeared. Holden is the host, and Huff plays her sidekick. Holden’s mastery of the thoroughbred industry is on display. One broadcast, she harkened back to a development decades ago.
“Well, 1966, I can’t remember that far back,” Huff said. Holden deadpanned, “You have a hard time on yesterday.”
They laughed uproariously. “You’re right there!” he said. And the show rolled forward.
Horse racing, though, “is just part of my life,” Huff said later, “just like football is.”
The NFL season will begin Sunday, and Sam Huff will be at home. Might he flip on the radio and listen to the broadcast that he will be a part of again Sept. 23, when the Redskins open their home schedule? Might he watch the team on television, a completely new experience?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not sure.”
Then the old linebacker leaned back in his chair and started another story. “You know, Wellington Mara . . .”
And he was off.