Football, which is a term in most parts of the world is used to describe the game of soccer, is arguably American’s most popular modern sport. Originally, the term football was used to describe any game that included running and kicking. There are several legends concerning the start of traditional football. Many believe that rugby was the predecessor for modern day American football, but today’s National Football League claims the modern game is based on soccer. It was likely in American colleges where many of the most noticeable developments took place concerning the game of football. A running game that involved violent tackling was played at Princeton in the early 1800s and a similar kicking game was played at Dartmouth. The rules for Dartmouth’s game were published in 1871 and the game was called Old Division Football.
Oneida Football Club
The first football team is believed to be the Oneida Football Club, a team from Boston started in 1861. There is no record of whether it was a
running, kicking, or a combination game, and no rules are recorded anywhere. In 1869, Rutgers played Princeton in a game that included two teams with 25 members each. There were 11 fielders, a dozen bulldogs, and two peanutters. The game was similar to modern day soccer because the teams scored with goals, as opposed to touchdowns. Throwing the ball or running while carrying the ball was not permitted during the game. Four years after this game was played, Princeton and Rutgers, as well as Yale and Columbia created the intercollegiate rules for football. Players were still not able to throw the ball or run with it and the teams were essentially playing soccer.
Modern day football was actually developed at Harvard College. Harvard knew the other four colleges planned to organize their rules that forbid physical contact and the carrying of the ball, so the school refused to participate. Harvard was standing by the rules of Rugby and in 1876, Harvard, along with Columbia, Princeton, and Yale adopted Engand’s Rugby Union rules.
Walter Camp, coach of the Yale football team, made several adjustments to the game’s rules in 1880 and 1883. Slowly, it began to resemble the modern day game. By the mid-1890s, the sport was popular among the general public. Players representing the college teams were paid comfortable salaries and in 1892, William Heffelinger became the first professional football player. The first professional game was played in 1895 between the Latrobe YMCA and the Jeanette Athletic Club.
In 1920, the American Professional Football Association, the nation’s first professional football league, was established. A year later the association changed its name to the National Football League. Initially, it was not as organized as it is today, but gradually developed into a tight knit group of teams. Today it is organized into two conference with four divisions each. The season begins in early fall and culminates mid-winter with the most popular of all U.S. sporting events, the Super Bowl.