The game of American Football was derived from early versions of rugby football and a bit of soccer, both of which their origins can be traced from the United Kingdom. Both soccer and rugby, and thus American football, have almost similar objectives of kicking the ball to a goal or over a line. Similar to soccer, American football also involves twenty-two players on the field. Terms such as “fullback” and “halfback”, which refer to positions, are also derived from the soccer. American football resulted from a major divergence from the rules of rugby football, as instituted by Walter Camp, considered to be the “Father of American Football.”
Walter Camp (the father of American football) instituted the rules of American football back in 1879. He was born April 17, 1859 in New Haven, Connecticut; Walter Camp studied medicine and business at Yale between 1976-1882. He was a man of many talents as he was an author, director of the Pecks Brother Company and also the chairman of the board for the New Haven Clock Company. He was also the head advisory football coach and general athletic director at Yale from 1888 -1914, as well as chairman of the Yale football committee. He had a major role in the evolution of American Football from the game of rugby and soccer, as we know the sport today.
Another great influencer of the game is William Ebb Ellis, a student in an English Rugby School who was the first person known for picking up the soccer ball during a game and running with it towards the goal line. It was then in a convention in Massosoit in the year 1876 when the first attempt of establishing the rules for American football was made. Walter Camp edited the rulebook until his last days in 1925.
He also standardized the scoring system using numerical scoring and created parts of the game like the interference, penalties, safety and neutral zone. He also established the rule that one side had undisputed possession of the ball until the ball is given up due to the said team’s violations. He also created the center and quarter-back positions, the forward pass, and the eleven on a team instead of fifteen which was the earlier number used. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, further developments to the rules of American Football were made by college coaches like Knute Rockne, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Eddie Cochems and Glenn “Pop” Warner.
By the first half of the 20th century, college football became more a lot more popular than rugby and soccer. Bowl games, an inter-collegiate competition attracted a huge national audience, with bolstering fierce rivalries among college football teams. The American Professional Football Association was soon formed in 1920 and two years later was changed to the National Football League (NFL), which is the major league of American Football. Today, there are numerous Pro American Football teams representing different states such as the Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants.
After much planning and preparation, the first game was played between the Denver Broncos on the road against the Boston Patriots. The game was held at Nickerson Field on Friday night, September 9th, 1960. It was a windy day that saw what many claimed was surprisingly good play from two teams that had never before played a game that counted. Frank Tripucka was the quarterback of the Broncos and he would finish 10 of 15 for 180 yards and one touchdown on the night. Though no rushing touchdowns were scored in the game, the Broncos did get a punt return for a touchdown. Carmichael turned in the best receiving numbers for the Broncos that game with six catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterbacking for the Patriots was Butch Songlin. He would attempt 24 passes, complete 12 of them for 145 yards and 1 touchdown. The running for the Patriots was evenly dispersed between three players: Jim Crawford, Larry Garron, and Walt Livingston, with each of them getting either seven or eight carries. Their biggest receiver on the night was Jim Colclough who caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
The scoring started with a 35-yard first quarter field goal by the Patriots’ Gino Cappelletti. Denver took the lead in the second quarter on a 59-yard touchdown pass to Al Carmichael from Frank Tripucka, and after the extra point kick by Gene Mingo it was 7-3. The Patriots got in the endzone in the fourth quarter with a ten yard pass from Butch Songin to Jim Colclough, making the score 13-10 which was the final score with the Broncos winning the first AFL game ever by three points.
Because this was the first AFL game ever, everything that happened in it was a league first. Including:
-The first ever AFL victory on the road (Denver).
-The first home loss in the AFL (Boston).
-The first AFL touchdown (Carmichael).
-The first AFL field goal (Cappelletti).
-The first AFL 100 yard receiving game (Carmichael).
-The first AFL touchdown pass (Tripucka).
-The first AFL punt return/special teams touchdown (Mingo).
The AFL is a great part of American football history and was successful enough that within a decade it had merged with the NFL.
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