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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

American Football

American students at Princeton University were playing a game they called "ballown," in the mid 1820s, in which they used their fists, and later their feet, to advance the ball.

Organized American football began earlier in high schools than in colleges, with games on the Boston Common starting in about 1860.

Colleges began to organize football games after the American Civil War ended in 1865. The so-called Princeton rules were established in 1867, with 25 players on each team. The first football was patented that year.

In the first official  intercollegiate American football game, Rutgers College defeated the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) , 6–4, on a Rutgers field in New Brunswick, New Jersey on November 5, 1869.

The players from Rutgers wore scarlet-colored turbans and handkerchiefs to distinguish them as a team from the Princeton players.

The match was played with a round ball and, used a set of rules suggested by Rutgers captain William J. Leggett, based on the English Football Association's first set of rules. Two teams of 25 players attempted to score by kicking the ball into the opposing team's goal. Throwing or carrying the ball was not allowed, but there was plenty of physical contact between players. The first team to reach six goals was declared the winner.

McGill University of Montreal challenged Harvard to two games at Harvard in the spring of 1874 - the first with Harvard rules with a round ball, and the second with Canadian rugby rules, using the oblong ball. The Americans were so taken by the game despite it resulting in a scoreless tie, they adopted it and it eventually evolved into the football now played throughout the country.

The Harvard vs. McGill game played in 1874.
In 1876, students from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia Universities set rules that allowed the ball to be carried in football.

No individual contributed more to American football’s evolution than Walter Camp, the Yale Coach, who rightly has been called "the father of American football." He introduced some of its most distinctive features, including the eleven-man team and instituted a type of scrimmage in which a player snapped the ball back by kicking it to the quarterback. In 1882 Camp also introduced the system of downs. He wrote (in 1891) the first book ever to be published on the game in the States.

The first night football game was played in Mansfield, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1892 between Mansfield State Normal and Wyoming Seminary. It ended bitterly at halftime in a 0–0 tie when the referee, Dwight Smith abandoned the match because the limited lighting and foggy conditions made the game too dangerous to continue.


Professional football began in 1895, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania., after the Intercollegiate Football Association was disbanded in a shambles.


The first indoor professional American football game was played in New York City at Madison Square Garden in 1902.

The first ever professional football night game was played at Maple Avenue Driving Park in Emira, New York on November 21, 1902. The Philadelphia Athletics football team, of the first National Football League, defeated the Kanaweola Athletic Club, 39-0.

The oldest genuine archive footage of football known to exist shows a game between Princeton and Yale, way back in 1903, plus footage of another university game in the same year (see below). 


In the 1905 American football season, 18 players were killed and 150 seriously injured. Concern about the increasing brutality of the game led some colleges to ban football. President Theodore Roosevelt called on Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to help save the sport. A seven-member Football Rules Committee was organized and they revolutionized football by legalizing the forward pass, which resulted in a more open style of play. They also prohibited all the rough mass plays, teammates were prohibited from locking arms to clear a path for their ballcarrier and the length of the game was reduced from 70 to 60 minutes. 

The first legal forward pass in American football was thrown by Bradbury Robinson of St. Louis University to teammate Jack Schneider during a game against Carroll College (Wisconsin) on September 5, 1906. The play stunned the fans and the Carroll players. St. Louis went on to win, 22–0.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch photograph of Brad Robinson throwing a forward pass

On October 7, 1916 Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland University 222–0 in the most lopsided college football game in American history.

The National Football League was formed as the American Professional Football Association in Canton, Ohio on September 17, 1920. The league hired Jim Thorpe as its first president, and consisted of 14 teams. Only two of these teams, the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) and the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals), remain.

The Akron Pros finished the debut season undefeated and were the first champions of the league.

The Akron Pros won the first APFA (NFL) Championship.

The American Professional Football Association renamed itself the National Football League for the 1922 season.

The Chicago Bears defeat the Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in the first ever indoor American Football Game. Because of a blizzard, the game had been moved from Wrigley Field to the Chicago Stadium

Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the first National Football League championship game 23-21 at Wrigley Field in 1933.

The first Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, California on January 15, 1967. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35–10. It remains the only Super Bowl that was broadcast simultaneously by two television networks: NBC and CBS. Cost of a ticket was $12.00.

The Miami Dolphins defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in a divisional playoff game in 1971. The double-overtime contest is the longest game in NFL history, and the Chiefs' last-ever home game at Municipal Stadium.

In the Chicago Bears - Cleveland Browns game, only three plays into the new football season in 1986, officials called for the first "instant replay" in NFL history. The rule was later tossed out, but returned in modified form in 1999.

The home team must provide the referee with 24 footballs for each National Football League game.

Timekeepers have clocked the action in a 60 minute football game to actually be around 14 minutes.

Although the NFL is 60% black, the top 33 scorers of all time are white—because they're kickers.

Source Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

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