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The History of American Football

Around the same time students at American colleges were playing a similar football game known as ‘ballown’.

  • At Harvard, the classes competed in pick-up style football games with no hard and fast rules in a bloody event that caught on and became popular around 1860 and increased further in popularity after the American Civil War ended.
  • Colleges began organising games with Princeton leading the way in establishing some rudimentary rules of the game. Encouraged by Yale University’s Walter Camp, the schools began to adopt rules that would differentiate American football from rugby in the 1880s.
  • Camp set the number of players on each team at eleven rather than Rugby’s fifteen. He also introduced a new scoring system in which a ‘touchdown’ would be worth six points; a principle that still exists today.
  • The most significant difference between Rugby and American Football was the system of ‘downs’, in which a team is only given a certain number of plays to cover a particular area of the field before they are forced to give up possession of the ball to their opponents.
  • The forward pass was also introduced and the game caught on quickly with other colleges. The introduction of the new rules made the game recognisable as the modern version of the sport. Subsequent rule changes during the course of the 20th Century proved to be only minor alterations – the fundamentals of American Football had been laid down.
  • The origin of professional football can be traced back to 1892, with William “Pudge” Heffelfinger’s $500 contract to play in a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. In 1920 the American Professional Football Association was formed.

This league later changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) and today the season’s highlight gameFree Articles, The Super Bowl is the most watched television event in the United States.

Dave Bartholomew