Who Really Invented Football: Exploring the Mastermind Behind It All
Football is an American tradition and arguably, the most popular sport in the country. Do you remember when every Sunday afternoon our families would get together to watch the game? There would be pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Everyone would have a chair as they rooted for their favorite team to win. Four or five hours later, the game would be over. Some family members were happy as clams, and others were dejected for the loss. When the Super Bowl game came every year, the stakes were higher and the family get-together was an even bigger event.
But do you know who really invented football? Do you know who the mastermind behind it all was? We can’t attribute the invention of football to a certain person, but several cultures played a version of it throughout the years. But there is one person who is considered the “Father of American Football.”
Let’s take a look at who really invented football. We will also explore what football is, a little history of the sport, and the man who was the mastermind behind it all.
What is Football?
First off, let’s define football. For those who don’t know what football is, it’s also called gridiron football. It is a sport that is played by two teams of 11 players. The field is rectangular with goalposts on either end. There is an oval-shaped ball that the offense attempts to travel with down the field to score points. The defense’s goal is to try and stop the offensive movement toward their goalpost.
In terms of scoring, the offense needs to advance 10 yards in four plays (which are called downs). If they can’t, then the other team will try to do so. However, if they are successful in moving the 10 yards, then they have another opportunity to move 10 yards in four plays. A touchdown is when the offense reaches the goalpost of the other team. The team with the highest number of points at the end of the game wins. When it comes to the points system, it isn’t as simple as soccer or basketball, as there are different numbers of points assigned to touchdowns or field goals.
Who Invented Football?
That isn’t truly an easy question to answer. There has been a variation of football for centuries. The ancient Greeks played a variation, the English played one, and Native Americans had a version, too. Let’s take a look at the possible variations and finally, the man who is considered the “Father of American football.”
The Ancient Greeks had a sport similar to American football. It was called Episkyros and the object of the game was to throw a ball over a scrimmage. The other team would try to tackle the offense to avoid a point or win.
Native Americans throughout time in what is now the United States and even Mexico, also had their version of modern American football. American football as we know it today took its ideas, though, from versions played in Europe and America in the first half of the 19th century.
Europeans and 1800s America
Many Europeans played a version of football in schools throughout the continent. For example, “mob football” was played in England which was more of a schoolyard game than anything professional. There have been historical references to adults in towns and villages playing this type of football, as well. Usually, it involved using an inflated pig’s bladder and running to a type of goalpost at the end of the field without getting tackled.
In the US, this form of football started to become a bit more popular and they started showing up in colleges and universities across the country. But the sport was unorganized as each school had its own rules and played it how they wanted to play it. The unorganized style of sport soon became more rowdy and mob-like. So much so, that universities started banning the playing of the sport. It was in the 1860s that football returned to universities.
Walter Camp took rugby and soccer and created his version. He was the captain of the Yale University football team when he suggested the rule changes. The rules that we are all familiar with were all Camp’s ideas — the use of downs, the point system, the number of players, the line of scrimmage, and even the position of quarterback. Camp created it all and he even wrote about American football, which contributed to its popularity.
His rules started to be implemented from the late-1870s to the mid-1880s and the sport took shape to what it is now. Because of this, he is known as the “Father of American football.”
When was Football First Played?
The first American football game played is considered to be a college game between Princeton and Rutgers. On November 6, 1869, the two teams of 25 players each team used a round ball that could kicked or batted with the feet, hands, or sides down a field. The objective: to advance the ball to the other team’s goal. The result: Rutgers won 6 to 4.
Several years later, representatives of several colleges including Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, and Columbia got together to standardize the rules. Up to that point, each team played how the home team played, which meant the rules were different every time. The Intercollegiate Football Association was formed in the mid-1870s using a slightly different way to play the game than originally set up a few years before. Thus, the beginning of college football was born, creating traditions with universities, colleges, and spectators all around the country.
History of Professional Football
As college football caught fire and became more popular, the talk of having professional teams increased. The first professional game where all players were paid, although that was considered a dishonorable practice at the time, was played on September 3, 1895. The game was played in Latrobe, PA with the Latrobe Athletic Association playing against the Jeannette Athletic Club.
Slowly but surely, athletic clubs started popping up with their players being paid as professionals. A league soon formed in 1902 called the National Football League, which is not the same as the league today. American football took the country by storm as more and more teams played in the league.
It was in 1920 that the American Professional Football Association was founded and from there the National Football League (the one we know of today) was officially formed.
And there you have it, the mastermind behind football was Walter Camp. Although he is not the one who invented the entire sport, he is the one who altered the rules of both rugby and soccer to create the American football we know today. Walter Camp is now known as the “Father of American football.”
If it weren’t for Walter Camp, there would be missing Sundays when families united and spending time together. There would be no great American pastime that we hold dear to our hearts. College football, just like professional football, was and still is something that people all over the country look forward to every season. It brings friends and family together to enjoy something quintessentially American. Walter Camp may have just invented football, but looking back at it all, he invented something more powerful than that. He invented a time-tested, American tradition.