Football, or American football, is the game that has replaced baseball as America’s favorite pastime. Super Bowl XLV, the most recent championship game which took place February 8, 2011, set an all-time TV viewing record in the country to date, drawing in 111 million people, and the best-attended national sports league in the world. How did this relatively new game reach such illustrious heights? Let us examine its history.

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Early Roots and the “Father of American Football”

American football was not the first game to include running over a line and kicking a ball at a goal. Several variations of football were played in Britain in the mid-19th century, and aspects of these different games eventually would contribute to what eventually became American football. There were running games and throwing games, which were incorporated and made into what was called the “Boston Game,” played by the Oneida Football Club starting in 1862.

Rugby, a popular sport to this day in Britain, also contributed to its rules. However, there are several significant divergences from rugby in American football, mostly made by Walter Camp, a medical student at Yale who played football and coached for the university, and was a long-time member of various collegiate football rules committees. Camp is generally credited with the title, “Father of American Football” for his contributions to fundamental rule changes that make the game what it is today; the introduction of the line of scrimmage, downs, distances, and snapping the ball to the quarterback. The institution of the down system was the definitive distinguishing rule that separated American football from the European games of soccer and rugby for the first time.

The game usually grew up in college sports circles, where different versions were played on college campuses in the early 20th century. Teams were formed, and several coaches helped develop rules for play, and so the game grew in popularity, up to the creation of the still-popular Bowl games. Colleges started investing in their own teams, and the number of teams nationwide grew from 8 to 43 between the years of 1880 and 1900. During this time, the game also starting spreading West from the East Coast, and the first-ever Rose Bowl game was played in 1902.

American Football Guide

With a little NFL History at hand, it is good to learn a bit more about American Football, NFL, and the differences of other sports; these include:

NFL Rules covers some essentials you would need to know to either follow, watch or play the sport of football, while also understanding the variables that can affect your NFL bets.
NFL Teams includes some brief history and information about the teams in the NFL.
The Super Bowl is the major NFL championship.
The Difference between NFL, CFL and NCAAF
The Difference between American Football and Football Soccer

Growth and Development of a National Game

The game continued to grow in the early 20th century, when the forward pass was instituted. Other noteworthy aspects of the game were invented added, seven offensive players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, the famous huddle, various penalties including roughing-the-passer, the three-point stance, and the three-point field goal. Certain coaches are notorious for these contributions and their names remain legend today—Eddie Cochems, Glenn “Pop” Warner, and Knute Rockne, coach of Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe played for Coach Rockne at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where he racked up impressive statistics, played football, basketball, and baseball in amateur leagues, and then went on to win an Olympic Gold Medal in the decathlon and pentathlon in 1912. He was on a team which became part of the American Professional Football Association in 1920, which went on to become the NFL two years later. Thorpe is considered one of the best athletes in American history and a cornerstone of the history of American professional football.

The 1930s saw more development of the college and professional sport. Football began to spread throughout the country, into the South and West Coast, and widespread popularity of the game grew with the addition of more Bowl games, the creation of the Heisman Trophy in 1935, and the first-ever NFL draft pick in 1936. The NFL integrated in 1946, and the league reached 13 teams in the year 1950. Recognizing the income potential of playoffs, the league exhibited the first championship game in 1958 between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. This game was later dubbed, “the Greatest Game Ever Played.” It proved to be “a watershed moment” for the league after the game was picked up and broadcast nationwide by NBC.

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AFL to Today’s NFL

The American Football League (AFL) was formed by Texas businessman Lamar Hunt, to compete with the NFL and attract college talent. While it made a formidable competitor for the NFL, the AFL never established teams in cities where the NFL already resided, with the exception of LA and New York. This made the union of the two leagues possible in 1970, following several successful AFL-NFL World Championship games, and the rest, as they say, is history. The merger created a 26-team league, which grew through expansion teams grew to the 32-team league of today, and the championship game at the end of each season came to be called the Super Bowl.

American football has evolved from humble origins on college campuses to become the most popular spectator sport in the country, with franchises, teams, and revenue in the billions of dollars. Game analysts only expect the game to grow in the future, and enthrall new audiences with its gamesmanship, showmanship, and athleticism.