History of American Football Day
Rugby and soccer both paved the way for American football in the late 1800s. Yale grad Walter Camp gets the credit for pushing innovative rule changes including the line of scrimmage, down-and-distance rules (i.e. “1st and 10”), and the legalization of blocking. Later, coaches like Knute Rockne and Amos Alonzo Stagg capitalized on the new “forward pass” play. College football took off well before the pro version in the early 1900s as Bowl games attracted a national audience for college teams. The NCAA version remains immensely popular today — with media coverage easily rivaling that of the NFL.
The pre-NFL American Professional Football Association began in 1920. Things grew quickly on the pro side. The NFL had grown to 25 teams by the mid 20s, and although the rival AFL folded after one season, it marked a growing interest in the game. Several college stars joined the NFL, most notably the University of Illinois’ Red Grange.
More teams entered the league during the 1950s and the 1958 NFL Championship Game, known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” changed everything. The Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, meeting at Yankee Stadium, played the first “sudden death” overtime game in NFL history. Tied after 60 minutes of play, it became the first NFL game to go into sudden death overtime. The final score was Colts 23, Giants 17. The game has since become widely known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. NBC broadcast the game live; many believe this set the stage for America’s current NFL frenzy.
Today there are 32 NFL teams split evenly between the NFC and the AFC. Conference winners meet to determine the league champion in the Super Bowl — generally held in early February. A postseason Bowl playoff system now generates the collegiate “national champion” as well.
American Football Day timeline
The American Professional Football League, eventually to be known as National Football League, is formed
Fritz Pollard - star of the Akron Pros, becomes the NFL's first African American Head Coach.
The APFL is officially renamed to NFL
Los Angeles hosts the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, now known as the Super Bowl.
The estimated worth of the Dallas Cowboys — football’s most valuable team.
American Football Day FAQs
Why is football important to American culture?
Is the NFL 100 years old?
Which current NFL teams have never played in a Super Bowl?
American Football Day Activities
Join a league
Just because high school is over doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sport anymore. There are plenty of local leagues that need good, strong-bodied players to join their ranks. In fact, there are probably a lot of leagues that need even mediocre, soft-bodied players to round out their team. The whole reason is to have fun so why not check out the local league and see if you make the cut?
Start a football pool
Nothing brings the office together like a little friendly wager, and there’s no better way to get everyone involved than by centering it around America’s favorite sport. If there are three things everyone thinks they’re an expert on, it’s music, movies, and football. Instead of having to put up listening to Justin in Customer Service talk about his playoff predictions, why not get him to put his money where his mouth is.
Call over your friends on game nights
What better way to celebrate than to experience two teams battling it out on the turf? You know what to do. Get a few six-packs, fire up the crock pot, and turn on the flat screen because nothing brings friends together than a good game, a hot bowl of chili, and countless hours of trash talking.
Why We Love American Football Day
It’s a game of strategy
People who are not fans of the sport like to paint the game as simple minded and barbaric, but they clearly have no idea how much strategy is involved in making a winning team. You can have as many star players on your team as you can afford, but without the brains to back it up, you’ll be eating dirt.
It brings people together
In America, the two biggest holidays that bring family and friends together are Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday. Even people who never watch a single regular-season game will head on over to a neighbor’s house to watch the Super Bowl and have a wing or two. Even Super Bowl commercials are now an event.
It’s a true team sport
There are a few sports out there (we’re not naming names, but we’re looking at you basketball) where one star player can really define a whole team. Football is a sport which relies heavily on a team working together. Each play is designed with a desired outcome in mind and if one player is sleeping at the wheel, the whole plan falls apart. This is one reason why football is such a popular sport. It requires unity to achieve a desired goal (or in this case, touchdown).
American Football Day dates