The History Of Football Essay Research Paper

The History Of Football Essay, Research Paper



I chose The First Half Century of Football as the topic of my essay because I truly love the sport,

everything about it. I love the big runs, and long passes which give the game so much flavor. I also chose this

topic because I didn t know a lot about the first 50 years of football. The game has changed very little over the

years. Among the changes were players being paid to play football, there was a draft installed to distribute young

collage athletes among the teams fairly, based on the teams record. I wanted to learn about some of the great

player the dominated the games in those days. I hardly know of the great rivals of today……. I learned about the

Chicago, & Washington rivalry. I will tell you about some of the premier players and teams of these days in the

essay. This essay should give you a taste of what kind of players there were.


The game of Football had its roots in English Rugby and soccer was refined to a distinct American flavor

in the nation s colleges during the last two decades of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th

century. Foot ball is played by two opposing teams of 11 men each-a fullback, two half backs a quarterback, a

center, two guards, two tackles, and two ends. The football field is level, measures 100 by 53 1/3 yards. The fields

Marked off by latitudinal stripes every 5 yards, with endzones on each ends consisting of 10 yards. At the end of

each endzone stands a Y-shaped goal posts 20 feet in height, with a crossbar 10 feet. Play is directed toward

moving he football-an inflated leather, spheroid ball often called the pigskin – across the opponent s goal line.

This done, a team scores a touchdown, counting six points. The defending team tries to prevent this by tackling

(forcing to the ground) the man carrying the football. The game is divided into two halves, each having two

periods, or quarter, of 15 minutes. At the end of each of the first three quarters the teams exchange goals. Each

half is begun by a kickoff, which also initiates play after every score.


In addition to the touchdown which results in six points; points are scored by kicking the ball over the

crossbar between the goal posts (a field goal), counting three points, and by downing a man in possession of the

ball behind his own goal line (a safty), counting two point. An additional point may be made after a touchdown by

kicking the ball over the crossbar or two points by running with or passing the ball over the goal line from two

yards away. In advancing the ball a team may run or pass (forward or laterally or a combination of both), but it

mast gain 10 yards in four tries (or downs),else turn over to the opposing team. It may also lose possession if one

of its ball carriers fumbles and in opposing player recovers the ball, or the quarterback throws a bad pass which is

caught by the opposing team (an interception). When a team is not likely to gain 10 yards in four downs, it often

kicks, or punts, the ball down field, usually on fourth down. Forward passing and open field running are features

of the game that thrill the average spectator, and blocking and tackling make football one of the most rugged sports

played. Football players were helmets, hip and shoulder pads, and other protective equipment. Five mien-the

referee, umpire, field judge, linesman, and electric clock operator- officiate in a game, and penalties, in the form of

moving the ball away from a teams object goal, are meted out for violations of the rules. Jack, Clary. These

attributes, spiced by the narcotic of competition are what lures those who are football people and provides for

them an endurance to make this game succeed. The Coffin Corner Volume XVI,1994.


The first talks of playing for pay occurred first around Pittsburgh s athletic clubs where victory was a

means to build membership. The first known pro at this time was William (Pudge) Hefelfinger, one of Yale s

greatest players in the late 19th century who had heard the purity of the sport. The best known player was Jim

Thorpe an All- American at the Carlisle Indian School from 1908-12, a 6-1,195-pound man. No player in the first

two decades of the century matched his feats, for which he was paid $250 per game by the Canton Bulldogs when

they signed him in 1915. In 1916, Canton won ten games and was acclaimed the world professional champion.

The game began to flourish in its own unregulated and out-of-the-hat style, but not without problems–rising

salaries, out -of-control player movement and the illegal use of collegians. Soon, many teams wanted to join the



One of the NFL s greatest accomplishments occurred in 1935 when Bert Bell convinced the owners to

initiate a draft of college players, a move generated because his team wasn t getting any top flight collegians. He

convinced them that the teams with the worst records should get first call on the top players to build better

competition, a key to everyone s survival. The first draft of nine round was held in Philadelphia on February 8,

1936 and Bell had the first pick. He selected Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwanger,, and the traded his right to

the Bears. Berwanger never played pro football.


Of course, players had much to do with the NFL’s first quarter century of success. Grange

highlighted the 20s, and in 1930, Halas (Chicago s owner) signed Bronko Nagurski, another

legendary All-America who had played at the University of Minnesota. Grantland Rice picked

only ten players on his 1929 All-America team because he put Nagurski at fullback and tackle. He

played nearly 60 minutes in every Bears game at fullback, tackle and linebacker, and in eight

seasons from 1930-37, he averaged 4.4 yards on every carry, that s an awesome average to this

day. No one wanted to take him on. Clark Hinkle, a great player for Green Bay, suffered a

five-stitch gash after tackling Nagurski the first time, displaying what tremendous power he had.

“My biggest thrill in football was the day he announced his retirement,” he said later. Nagurski,

who also played with Grange on those 30s Bears teams. The most famous was Sid Luckman,

who became the pioneer of the game’s primary position – the T quarterback. Like all potential

NFL quarterbacks during this time, Luckman had been a single wing tailback at Columbia but

Halas had no qualms that he couldn’t learn the new position. And then there was Hutson of Green

Bay. He lead them for 11 seasons, he set every NFL pass receiving and scoring record, the most

celebrated being 99 career touchdown passes at a time when the passing game simply was not

prolific. But this 6-1, 180-pound former University of Alabama star was virtually impossible to

cover. A mastery of using head fakes and changes of pace was the first of its day, also helped him

to lead the NFL receivers in eight seasons, five in a row while catching 488 balls for 7,961 yards.

He led the NFL in TD passes eight times, four consecutively; and in scoring, five consecutive



The Bears, aptly nicknamed Monsters of the Midway, dominated the NFL for the next

three seasons, winning titles in 1941 and 1943. The latter season was notable because Chicago

brought Nagurski out of retirement after World War II had sapped their personnel. Nagurski had

retired in 1938 when Halas refused to give him a $1000 raise to $6000. But at 34, he capped his

career in a 41-21 NFL title game victory over Washington when Luckman passed for five

touchdowns. It was no accident that Washington and Chicago were the NFL’s best teams from

1937-43. The Redskins answer to Luckman was Sammy Baugh, who had led TCU’s famed “aerial

circus” and reincarnated it for the Redskins. A lean, raw-boned Texan, he led the NFL in passing

six times, starting with his rookie season when he and Cliff Battles, who won his second rushing

title, led Washington the the NFL title; and he also helped Washington win the 1942 titles and five

division crowns. Unlike Luckman, Baugh was a single wing tailback for much of his Redskins

career but he was a better thrower than runner; and a superb punter and defensive back. He holds

the NFL season punting average of 51.4 per yards. Like the Bears and Redskins, the Green Bay

Packers also were in the forefront of the passing game, thanks to a spindly end named Don

Hutson, who like Baugh also was a superb athlete who kicked and played defensive back with

great skill. Curly Lambeau, who had nourished the Packers from their birth in 1921, had won

three straight titles in 1929-31. As a player, Lambeau was a fine passer and he always believed in

its importance. He picked players to give him that dimension, beginning with Arnie Herber in

1930, Clark Hinkle in 1932, Cecil Isbell in 1938 and Tony Canadeo in 1941. In New York City,

the Giants became a contender during the 30s under coach Steve Owen when they won seven

division titles and two NFL crowns during 14-seasons from 1933-46. The Giants of that time

established their great defensive tradition that lasts to this day. They were led by Mel Hein, who

from 1931-45 was a 60-minute linebacker and center, and still is considered the best all-around

player in the team’s history. He was the NFL’s MVP in 1938.


When I researched this paper I had an idea I would learn some interesting facts about

football. I learned about the great Chicago teams and players. I gave the reader a taste of how

the game is moved up the playing field. I explain why the first Drafting of players was brought in

to football. Football players make a career out of playing football to day, athletes get paid

millions of dollars today. In the 20 s & 30 s players had to work in the off season. Some players

played for free. This was a very interesting topic to me because I am a big football fan and I enjoy

to play also.


Jack Clary. Professional Football Researchers Association.(online)

Bridgwater, William. Football . The Columbia Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press: 1996


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