Football – The Evolution of a National Sport

On November 6, 1869 the first soccer football game was played between Rutgers and Princeton. Rugby as the game was known developed over a seven year period and became the favorite sport among the major eastern schools over all other sports including soccer. It was during these 7 years that modern day football began to develop into the sport it is today.

Walter Camp known as the father of American football got involved with the sport at the Massasoit convention, now known as the NCAA, in 1876. The first rules of American football were written at this time.

In 1892 football was a popular sport among athletic clubs across America. In Pittsburgh Pennsylvania two rival athletic clubs were fiercely competitive. This competition lead to one of the clubs actually paying a player $500, the first professional paid player of the sport. William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, a Yale graduate, was not only the first paid player of the sport but also won the game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The Allegheny club won 4-0.

Four years after Heffelfinger became the first professional football player the Allegheny Athletic Association started its first all professional team. In 1896 the football season consisted of 2 games.

From 1900 to 1905 the number of professional teams grew. The State of Ohio had seven professional football teams. It wasn’t until 1902 that the first major tournament was held at the Madison Square Gardens in New York. There were 5 teams involved in which 4 teams were from New York and 1 team was from New Jersey. It was at this time that the 1st night game was played before 3000 people. Syracuse won the tournament with the help of the legendary Glen (Pop) Warner. They played against New York, the score 6-0.

In 1967 the first NFL-AFL Championship game was played between Green Bay (35) and Kansas City (10). Interesting to note that Green Bay was also victorious over Oakland (33-14) in the 1968 Championship Game. In 1969 the name “Super Bowl” was officially adopted for this magnificent sports event with the New York Jets defeating Baltimore (16-7).

From the humble beginnings of football in the major eastern colleges to the local athletic clubs across America, the rich history of this sport and men who loved it created a national past time. Sports fans not only in America but all over the world are avid followers of this highly competitive game.