An Introduction to the History of American Football

Posted by Sarah Seippel on

What is American Football?

The sport that is most commonly associated with the United States is football, more properly know as gridiron football.  Saturday game days are a way for family and friends to come together and share their passion in rooting for the same team.  On the contrary, it is also a way to bond through competition of supporting opposing teams.  The pregame is full of laughter and playful banter, finger foods and light beer, thunder sticks and cowbells. Football jerseys and team colors create a sea of spirit right before your eyes.  On an ideal day, the sun is beaming down on your tent as your best friend is managing the barbeque and you and your friends play cornrow, all while taking in the scents of the delicious indulgences and victories to come soon.  The best part isn’t even the elements of the festive pregame; it is the anticipation of watching your team destroy the opposition.  It is joining together in a unity to cheer on what you believe in.  More often that not, we don’t realize that many other countries do not gather together in such a way, and they often question why Americans feel so much passion for such a diverse sport. So how did this sport and its traditions develop in American anyways?


The History of American History

American football emerged from two primary European sports, rugby and soccer.  In 1879, a rugby player and coach Walter Camp, of Yale University, proposed numerous rule changes to the sport.  With the reduction of players on the field and the standardization of field size, a new sport was created.  This meant that instead of having fifteen players on the field, like what rugby still has, there would only be eleven men on the field.  Additionally, the standard field size was set to a hundred and ten yards.   Soon after, tackling rules were adapted to legalize tackling under the belt.  A “high tackle” could result in a penalty.  Unfortunately, the violent physically challenges from the game did cause some serious injuries, so football was banned from many colleges and universities until protective equipment was revised.

Walter Camp

Walter Camp is the man most notably responsible for the introduction of American football in the world today.  As mentioned earlier, Walter was a rugby coach and played for Yale University.  Arguably, Walter’s two largest contributions to the sport were made when he served on the newly formed Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA).  The first contribution was removing the “scrum” from the game, and he proposed that a team surrender the all after failing to move down the field a specific yardage.  The other notorious change was the number of men who participated during playing-time, the quarter back, the line of scrimmage, and offensive signal-calling.

Well Known Collegiate Players

Each year, there are many new men drafted and selected to take the field each season.  Among the many men selected, a few of them become legends, but only a few are worthy of greater recognition.  One of these select players is Herschel Walker of the University of Georgia for setting running back records from 1980 to 1982.  He led the steam to a National Championship in 1980.  After his college career, he moved on to play for the New Jersey General for three years and then later the Dallas Cowboys.  Another notorious football star is Tommie Frazier from Nebraska.  Tommie led his team to the national championships two times in a row in the 1990’s, and he is the only quarterback to accomplish such a thing in the past forty years.




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