Although what we now call the NFL wasn’t founded until August 20, 1920, American football’s roots go back well over a century. Check out some surprising facts about rust’s humble beginnings.
1. Canada helped shape the rules of American football.
In May 1874 an Ivy League school was supposed to compete in two rugby games against players from a Canadian university. The first game was played according to traditional rugby rules. The second came under some Canada-directed changes, including the use of an oval in place of a round ball, making tackles, and tracking downs. American coach Walter Camp later wrote an official list of the rules, and schools began adopting the rules of American football.
2. The oval soccer ball was an accident.
There was no master design theory behind the unique elongated shape of football. When two competing schools competed against each other in 1
3. The first professional soccer player was awarded $ 500 per game.
Football was largely treated as an amateur competition until November 12, 1892, when the Allegheny Athletic Association (AAA) took over the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The AAA defied the rules of fair play and paid one player, William “Pudge” Heffelfinger, $ 500 to join their team. Previously, desired players received awards, jobs or other perks in order not to be paid directly. With Heffelfinger’s wages, the game began to turn into a professional pursuit.
4. Football was extremely dangerous back then.
Eager to prove their tenacity to their fathers and grandfathers, many of whom fought in the Civil War – the young men who played football at the turn of the 20th centuryth The 19th century accepted a high level of risk. Bodies and heads collided with the regularity, but helmets weren’t part of the game yet. In 1905, 18 players died as a result of injuries on the field.
5. Football should train future soldiers.
Many universities viewed football as a metaphor for war, believing that students who could endure the punishing physicality of a game would be psychologically prepared for any future conflict that might preoccupy them. Some coaches even used military-inspired exercises during training camps.
6. Football players can change teams in a split second.
Early pro shooters didn’t have ironclad contracts preventing them from jumping to another team and a better deal. As a result, many players moved from one organization to another. In 1920 team leaders formed the American Professional Football Conference to solve these problems.
7. Not everyone played soccer in school.
Pro teams found talent wherever they could. One standout player, Johnny McNally, had only played the game briefly before he was kicked out of college. He signed up for a pro team and has been in business for 15 years.
8. Football teams were given protective gear wherever they could.
Before professional equipment manufacturers emerged, players isolated themselves from damage with whatever was available to them. One player admitted taping thick magazines around his shins to prevent them from being damaged by someone else’s cleats, while other players sewed pillows together to make some of the first primitive shoulder pads.
9. Teddy Roosevelt saved the soccer game.
With football condemned as too brutal in the media, President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in. In 1905, he summoned representatives from major colleges and asked them to add safety measures that would reduce the number of player injuries. It was not until 1906 that they listened and the intercollegiate authorities scrapped mass formations that could crush players and lead to more serious injuries.
10. College football was bigger than professional baseball.
American fans were so in love with the rough game of football at universities that the crowd usually tripled compared to the national pastime of baseball: tens of thousands attended in 1905, while a baseball game could see 3,000 spectators standing.
11. Soccer players often used tricks.
With loose regulations around the turn of the century, coaches were happy to take advantage of whatever advantage they could. A legendary coach had his players wear elastic jerseys that could contain a soccer ball after a scrum. When they split up, the opposing team didn’t know which man had the ball.
12. Soccer coaches thought the forward pass was for wimps.
To mitigate the dangers of the game, schools introduced the forward pass in 1906. Coaches who believed this made the game too protective for the players sometimes refused to include it in their strategies. It wasn’t until some teams started winning games by completing passes that the idea of throwing the ball got some acceptance.
13. The earliest football was a pig’s bladder.
Before football became more regulated in the late 19th century, players in the earliest games needed something that could sustain inflation. Solution: a pig’s bladder that can hold air without leaking. This early technology gave way to rubber in the 1870s.
14. Soccer players literally wore nose guards.
Before proper headgear and other equipment were mandatory, players experimented with making their own face shields. In 1899, a college player trying to protect his already damaged nose made a wire mesh guard that was secured with a rubber band. It worked well – for him. The net caused cuts and injuries to players he collided with. Later variations of the “nasal mask” included a leather pad.
15. Soccer players played dirty.
With a few universal rules of the game, the teams could sometimes come up with unusual methods to ensure victory. In a game between competing schools in 1893, the home team’s players appeared on the field wearing oiled full-body leather suits: the smooth surface would make it extremely difficult for the opposing players to get a grip on. (The oilless squad still prevailed 6-0.)
This story has been updated for 2020.