The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

December 4, 2013

Book chronicles two state NFL greats


— Author Seseen Francis has chronicled the early years of football legends Sam Huff and Frank “Gunner” Gatski in his first published novel, “Sam Huff and the Gunner.”

Both Huff and Gatski grew up in Coal Camp Number 9, just a mile from Farmington, W.Va. Each went on to star in the National Football League, and their professional career efforts earned them both a coveted spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.

“The book had to be written,” Francis said in a press release. “The story is just too good.”

“Sam Huff was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982; Gatski in 1985. When Gatski was inducted, there were only 125 in the Hall of Fame. Imagine, out of all the players and coaches involved in professional football since its inception in the 1920s, only 125 had been selected for the Hall of Fame and two were from Coal Camp Number 9,” Francis said.

Francis said he’s known Huff “for a long time” and had discussed his story with him over the years. “I felt fortunate to get to know Frank Gatski and was able to interview him several times before he passed away in 2005,” he added.

“Luckily, one of my life-long friends, Mike Arcure, knew both Sam and Frank intimately, and in fact, was the football manager at Farmington High School when Sam went to school there. Mike, whose recall of facts is legendary, was able to supply essential information. Among others I interviewed were Murvyn McDowell, one of Sam’s classmates, and Blair Wolfe, principal at James Fork Elementary, prior to his passing,” Francis said.

Huff became one of the most famous names in professional football when he played linebacker for the New York Giants in the 1950s. At a time when television brought pro football into homes across the country, he literally became the face of the NFL: He was even featured on the cover of TIME magazine, and famed newscaster Walter Cronkite featured him in a TV segment “The Violent World of Sam Huff,” in which Huff was miked during an actual game.

Huff became a household name. In contrast, Gatski had quietly plied his trade with the Cleveland Browns a decade earlier — beginning with the very first Browns team in 1946. In that first year, Gatski was a linebacker and a substitute center.  Beginning in 1947, he became the Browns’ regular center and over the next 10 years won great acclaim as a center.

Huff and Gatski finally faced each other on the football field — during the College All-Star Game of 1956, when Huff was beginning his pro career and Gatski’s was coming to an end.

“Everybody knows about Sam Huff, but Frank is one of pro football’s least known legends,” Francis says. “I guess that’s the fate of someone playing the position of center.”

While this is Francis’ first published novel, he is also known as a playwright, composer and publisher. As a composer and playwright, he has written hundreds of songs and several musicals for which he wrote the book, music and lyrics.

The book is available on Amazon.com in both the e-book version ($9.95) and in the printed book ($19.95).