Leo Sanford kicked back in his easy chair, a giant leather affair, and began reminiscing about "the game" he's been forced to re-live over and over again during the past 54 years.
"Sitting in the den in his modest home, located just a couple hundred yards from the southern shore of Cross Lake, the affable, former NFL linebacker doesn't seem to mind detailing for the umpteenth time what has been called "the greatest (NFL) game ever played."
As if it happened yesterday, the 82-year-old Sanford remembers playing center and linebacker for the Baltimore Colts against the New York Giants in Yankee Stadium in 1958 during the NFL Championship Game. The contest would not only define the careers of stars like Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry and Sam Huff, it would vault the NFL into the nation's consciousness like nothing that preceded it.
The first NFL playoff game to go into sudden-death overtime was even more memorable for Sanford, since it became the final contest of his nine-year NFL career. Entering the game with a slightly injured knee, Sanford left the contest in the first quarter when Giants All-Pro left tackle Roosevelt Brown put the finishing touches on the appendage with a clean hit.
"But I still limped on the field to perform long snaps for punts and field goal attempts," Sanford said proudly.
The Colts won the game 23-17 when Alan Ameche scored from 1-yard out in the overtime period.
While that NFL game is the one Sanford is asked about the most, there were hundreds more in his stellar career that took him from All-Stater at Fair Park to All-American at Louisiana Tech. And if Sanford hadn't fallen in love with a young woman working in Shreveport in 1946, his life might have turned out differently. Sanford was trying to decide between scholarship offers from LSU, Florida and Tech following his senior campaign, when he met Myrna Mims. He decided to play ball in Ruston to remain close to Mims and he would eventually lead Tech to a pair of Gulf States Conference championships under coach Joe Aillet.