The History of American Football

The History of American Football

Are you ready for the big game day?

As America gears up for Super Bowl Sunday, let’s explore the history of American football!

Just where did American football originate?

To find out, we have to go back to Roman and Greek times nearly two thousand years ago.

The Romans and the Greeks played games with a ball where the teams tried to keep the ball and score points without losing the ball and letting the other team score.

While the exact rules of these games are lost in the mists of time, we’re pretty sure the players were involved in tackling each other similar to rugby or American football today.

These team games developed through the millennia, and sometimes whole towns would participate! Things could get pretty intense, and these events came to be known as mob football. Yikes!

Strong rivalries developed between these towns as each tried to win the championship from the other and claim victories.

College football beginnings

historical photo of football equipment

In America, a version of mob football combined with rugby appeared on college campuses in the 19th century. There weren’t any real rules, and crowds of students would play the game. Just like the mob football of the Middle Ages, the real goal was winning the right to brag…about winning!

Of course, with no rules and no safety equipment, people got hurt.

In 1869, two American colleges, Rutgers and Princeton, played the first college football game that resembled the American sport we know today. The coaches created some rules the teams had to follow, and each team had 25 players!

This wasn’t exactly mob football. Instead it was called gridiron football, so named because of the lines marked at regular intervals on the field.

Back then, the teams either kicked the ball or swatted it with their hands to get it to the other end of the playing field. Kicking the ball to score became known as a field goal.

Formal rules and scoring in early American football

Toward the end of the 19th century, more formal rules were adapted, and the teams scored with field goals and the newly included touchdown.

The story goes that in 1895, one team was so desperate to score, they threw the ball across the field, and forever after that, forward passing was allowed.

It’s kind of interesting to watch the development of the Greek and Roman games into the sport we know today as American football.

The transition is commonly attributed to a man named Walter Camp who is called “The Father of American Football.”

Back in 1876, he played on a team at Yale, served as the team captain, and eventually helped shape the rules applied to the game.

Leagues and the Championship

In the early 1920s, multiple college and professional teams formed across the nation. The professional teams were divided into two leagues, which eventually merged in 1966.

This also happened to be the year of the first championship game to decide the top team of the leagues.

But what to call this game of games? Ideas like Pro Bowl and World Series of Football were suggested, but the story goes that the owner of the Kansas City team used a play on the name of his son’s toy, a “super ball” to decide the name Super Bowl.

And that’s what it’s called to this day.

football player

Which Super Bowl is it?

To tell the games apart, Roman numerals were added to the name. How fitting for a game originating in Rome!

The only time a Roman numeral wasn’t used for the championship football game was in 2016. No one wanted to call it Super Bowl “L”, so they used the number 50 instead.

These days, the Super Bowl is a time for gathering and feasting with friends and friendly rivals to see who gets to claim the title of Best Football Team in the nation.

And what better way to celebrate American football than to serve up delicious dishes from the United States!

You can experience six different eat2explore recipes from our United States North and United States South boxes, including a perfect game-day dish…chili!

Get ready for Super Bowl LIV, and may the best team win!


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