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Invention of American Football

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Modified 26 Sep 2018, 13:00 IST

While the two games are drastically different now, both football and soccer have common roots. In fact, without soccer's invention, we likely would not have football today. They are that closely intertwined.

When it comes to which country invented soccer, things do get a little bit muddled. Most people, nowadays, commonly agree that England was the country to invent soccer (and rugby, which also influences football), but there were various versions of the game played around the world before then.

For example; the version played in China closely resembled a combination of rugby and soccer although the governing body of soccer (FIFA) does not recognize any sort of play which took place outside of Europe as being part of the history of soccer. They mostly look at the codification of the rules of the game, which certainly happened in England.

Rugby evolved from the idea of soccer in the 19th century, with it being played by many private schools throughout England. The football that we know and love today shares many similarities to rugby, mostly because it evolved from the sport. You may find that there is a lot of overlap, although nowadays the game of football is a slower, more tactical sport. Rugby is very close to soccer in the way in which it is played.

When was college football invented?

Invention of football

The first game of ‘football’, or something that would evolve to become football took place on November 6th 1869. Rutgers University faced off against Princeton University in a game ‘created’ by William J. Leggett. It wasn’t quite football at this time, instead, the game was based more off the early rules of soccer, so a lot more ‘bashing’ others than the game of soccer typically involves nowadays.

There was no throwing or kicking of the ball at this time. When people ask ‘when was college football invented?’, this was basically it. It was invented on November 6th 1869. College football was invented before the actual sport of football. Over the years, more and more teams started to join this little tournament that Rutgers and Princeton University had going on. At the same time, the rules continued to evolve to get closer and closer to modern football.

Interestingly, one of the best concepts of modern football came out of a rule disagreement. Harvard University was not a fan of helping to change the rules of the game, so it refused to attend a rules rewriting and played under its own code. This meant that nobody really wanted to play with them, which led to Harvard University taking up rugby, where they took the concept of the try and made it into the touchdown.

This quickly evolved to become closer to the game of football. When they took their rules to the other teams in the league, Yale University agreed to play against them in one match. In attendance at that match was Walter Camp, who played a very important role in the rest of football’s history.


Who invented the game of football?

The year after this match, Walter Camp joined Yale University where he decided to take a key role in changing up the rules of the game. He loved the way Harvard was playing more of a rugby style, and a lot of the suggestions that he made would have turned the football style into more of a ‘rugby’ thing as opposed to being close to soccer (although, there would still be some overlap between the two sports)

It was Walter Camp that allowed the football modern game to develop. For example; he proposed to reduce the number of players on the pitch, although it took a while for everybody else to accept that change. He also helped to establish the line of scrimmage, as well as the snap. He even came up with the scoring rules for the sport, as well as the size of the pitch that the game would be played on, although it took a while to get to that point.

It was the last innovation that Camp, inventor of football, made which helped to differentiate football and turn it into its own sport. By this point, the game was still close to the way in which rugby was played, albeit with a few small differences. Camp decided to make it legal for blocking to take place in the game.


Interestingly, most of the suggestions that Walter Camp made to the game only took place while he was a student at Yale University. So, it only took a few years for the modern football pathway to be established. While he did continue to attend rule meetings for the rest of his life (he died in 1925), he did not make serious changes to the sport in that time. He was not even a football player, and he likely never knew what the sport would eventually become.

The first game of college football played under the rules of Walter Camp was in 1876, with various games taking place after that as the rules continued to be developed. Although the game never really saw countrywide growth until 1933, when various colleges started to pick up the sport. It was around this time that the final rules for the game were finalized, although many, many changes (albeit smaller ones) have been made since then. There was no national championship, so the teams decided to invent ‘bowls’ where teams who were a bit further in distance could still compete against each other.

It was not just colleges getting in on the sport, though. Oh no. It was also the American public. In 1920, the American Professional Football Association was invented, which would have allowed teams to start competing against each other.

More and more teams continued to join this league, and the rules for the league continued to be solidified, and eventually, the APFA became the NFL, and one of the biggest proponents of the game of American football to this day, generating billions in income for the sport each year.

Published 18 Sep 2018, 23:33 IST
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