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History of American Football

Debopriya Bose Mar 7, 2020
This story elaborates the history of American football, a game that has evolved from being a game of brute force in its early forms, to becoming a game that requires technique, skill, and high levels of physical fitness.
American football is an amazing sport in which each team tries to push the other team behind and gain every inch of the field, and finally, score a touchdown or a field goal. Football is a sport that epitomizes endurance, competitiveness, and the human spirit to win.
It has not only been adopted as a national sport by 60 countries, but historical records show that it was played even in the ancient times. The sport was used by the Romans and the Ancient Greeks to train their warriors.
The Chinese have been known for playing football 3000 years ago. However, modern-day football owes its origin to the football that started shaping up in England.


American football has its origin in rugby, which originated from earlier forms of football played in United Kingdom. Football was played in college campuses of America since the beginning of the 19th Century. However, there were no set rules for the game. Each college played its own version of football. For example students at Princeton called their form of football ballown.
In this game, the players first used their fists to advance the ball, and then their legs to take the ball past the opposing team. At the same time, a football-like game was played at Harvard on the first Monday of every school year. This game involved a lot of brute force, and caused so much physical injury that the day was referred to as the Bloody Monday.


The end of the American Civil War in 1865, brought a new dawn to the American football. The sport started gaining popularity on college campuses, and the colleges started laying certain rules for the game. In 1867, Princeton formally laid down the rules for the game that was played by its team.
According to the rules only 25 members could play in each team. The same year the game also got patented. The first Intercollegiate football was played in 1869 between the Rutgers and Princeton. Four years later in 1873, representatives from Princeton, Rutgers, Columbia, and Yale formed the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA) and laid down the first rules for Intercollegiate Football matches.
However, the final transition of the American football, from rugby style to its modern form, started with the efforts of Walter Camp who is regarded as the Father of American Football. Camp was a member of the IFA and also a football coach at Yale.
He was unhappy with the rules set up by the IFA of allowing 15 members in each team. Under his leadership, the IFA's rules committee made a cut in the number of players allowed in each team from 15 down to 11, and also laid down the size of the playing field as 110 yards.
Walter Camp also introduced the systems of downs and the lines of scrimmage rules. He created the safety, interference, penalties, and neutral zone and also standardized the scoring system.
Despite the changes in the rules and new rules being introduced, the game still remained intensely physical. By the early 20th century, many colleges had banned football from their campuses.
The major problem of the game was, the immensely popular mass-formations in which players of one team would charge at the other team as a unit. The resultant collision would be so intense that it resulted in serious injuries and even deaths.
The large number of casualties that the sport caused, made the then president, Theodore Roosevelt, to declare that the game would be banned unless its rules were reformed. On December 28, 1905, 62 schools met in New York City to discuss the changes that could be made in the rules of the American Football, in order to make it a safer sport.
As a result of the meeting the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was formed which later became the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The association banned mass formations and locking of arms. It also reduced the duration of the game from 70 to 60 minutes and legalized the forward pass that gave a more open style of play to the game.
Further changes and innovations made by legendary football coaches, like Knute Rockne, Pop Warner and Eddie Cochems, introduced techniques and skills to the sport, that was once characterized by the physical strength of its players.

History of Professional Football

Professional football originated in America on November 12, 1892, when William "Pudge" Heffelfinger became the first player to be hired for playing football. Till then, playing the game for money was considered dishonorable. Slowly the game started becoming more organized and professional.
On September 3, 1895, the first professional football game was played in America, in the town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, between the Jeannette Athletic Club and the Latrobe YMCA. In August 1920, the National Football League (NFL) which is the first professional football league, was formed.
It was the brainchild of Jim Thorpe, player-coach of the Canton Bulldogs and Leo Lyons who owned the Rochester Jeffersons (a football team). Jim Thorpe became the league's first president.

American Football League

While the popularity of National Football League kept soaring, another rival football league called the American Football League (AFL) originated in 1959. The rivalry continued to escalate between the two leagues, with AFL not only trying to outbid NFL to sign college players, but also poaching NFL players with higher pay.
Super Bowl which was the official name of the annual football match between AFL and NFL, became the most awaited event of the year.
However, the rivalry was seen detrimental for the progress of both the leagues, and as a result, AFL was merged with NFL in 1970. With the merger, the Super Bowl came to be known as the NFL Championship Game. The NFL kept expanding and at present it has 32 teams under it.
From its humble beginnings in 1869, when the first Intercollegiate football was played between the Rutgers and Princeton, American Football has now emerged as a multi-billion dollar sport. It has become an important source of revenue for television networks.
More than a dozen matches are aired every weekend during the football season, and NFL has become the most popularly viewed sports league in the United States.