Michael Huff’s name doesn’t necessarily come to mind when people think of the 2005 BCS National Championship game between the Texas Longhorns and the USC Trojans.
After all, the Trojans had its two Heisman trophy winners in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush (Bush would later lose his Heisman because of NCAA violations), plus a bruising running back by the name of LenDale White. And who could forget Vince Young’s memorable fourth down touchdown scamper late in the fourth quarter of Texas’ dramatic 41-38 win. Mack Brown had finally won that elusive national title.
Lost in all of the names and late-game heroics is the play of Huff. He was the player who recovered Bush’s ill-advised lateral when he was in the open field. Perhaps Huff’s biggest play, however, occurred late in the fourth quarter.
USC was nursing a 38-33 lead with just over two minutes left in the game. Faced with a fourth-and-2 at its 45 yard line, USC coach Pete Carroll chose to go for it rather than punt. White was stopped inches short of a first down by Huff and a host of Texas defenders. Young proceeded to lead the Longhorn offense down the field for the winning touchdown.
These two plays may have been overshadowed by other circumstances, but Huff made plenty of plays in 2005 to make people take notice. He was an All-American as well as the Jim Thorpe award winner for the nation’s best defensive back. Huff finished his career with four interceptions returned for touchdowns. He is also part of a special fraternity of players at Texas – “DBU” as it is affectionately called. This title was coined by the Texas playersbecause of all the quality secondary players defensive coach Duane Akina produced.
Huff was selected No. 7 overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2006 NFL Draft. He earned the strong safety job and started all 16 games that season, recording 78 tackles. In 2007, Huff had his first sack and interception of his NFL career to go along with 85 tackles. The future looked bright for the former Longhorn.
The 2008 season was a speed bump in Huff’s pro career. He struggled earlier on, eventually losing his job to Hiram Eugene (who?). Huff rebounded in 2009 with solid numbers. The 2010 season was by far his best. The safety recorded a career-high 94 tackles, four sacks and tied his career high in interceptions with three. He would spend two more seasons in Oakland before being released by the Raiders in March 2013. Just two weeks after his release, Huff signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Huff’s signing came five days after Ed Reed signed with the Houston Texans. Many assumed Huff would be the heir apparent to Reed. That was not to be the case.
Huff’s time in Baltimore was short. Following a Week Seven loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers – a game in which Huff made a special teams gaffe that resulted in a long kick return – Huff was released along with veteran Marcus Spears and replaced with two practice squad players. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh cited Huff’s miscue on special teams as the reason for his release. He said such a play is “unforgivable.”
Huff wouldn’t stay unemployed for long. The Denver Broncos came calling following a season-ending injury to Rahim Moore. Huff suited up in five games for the Broncos, and was on the roster for Super Bowl XLVIII.
Today Huff is a free agent, waiting for a chance to suit up again. Whether the NFL comes calling or not, Huff will have a special place in the hearts of Longhorn fans everywhere for his play in that magical 2005 season.