The History of Football

As I grab my chips and dip to watch election coverage, political debates, and candidate interviews, a large portion of America is getting their favorite chairs and beer cozies ready for their love-football season. I couldn’t let autumn go by without looking into the history of football. Hopefully this blog is a touch down—well and hopefully my attempt at wit doesn’t land outside of the sidelines.

American Football is derived from the games of rugby and soccer. A form of football was played around 1823 in at the Rugby School in England. Essentially then, American football, soccer, and rugby all started as the same sport.

During soccer games at The Rugby School (not sure if it’s the soccer we now know or why soccer was being played at the Rugby school), student William Ebb Ellis frequently picked up the ball ran with ball in hand. This action broke the conventional rules of the game and possibly caused fans to ask, “Why don’t we just change the rules and have everyone carry the ball?”

I’m reminded of the Seinfeld phrase, “yada, yada, yada.” Essentially numerous parties played rugby, soccer, and football but only with some variation to previous rules. It wasn’t a whole new game with new rules.

Walter Camp not only played football, he was a coach, a worker at a clock company, a sports article writer, and a book writer (wrote 30 books and more than 250 magazine articles by the time of his death). By 1892 his involvement with football organizations, team wins, coaching techniques, and rule changes garnered him the nickname “Father of American Football.”

Most notably, he is credited with making the following new rules/alterations to existing rules to the game which keep referees everywhere busy and remind us how great video camera replays are.  These include but are not limited to:

the line of scrimmage, one side retained undisputed possession of the ball, until that side gives up the ball as a result of its own violations, 11 on a team instead of 15, creation of the quarter-back and center positions, the forward pass, the standardized the scoring system, numerical scoring, the creation of the safety, interference, penalties, and the neutral zone, tackling as low as the knee was permitted (1888), the touchdown increased in value to six points and field goals went down to three points (1912) From:

The rules become more succinct and the game became more popular. By 1920 various football organizations existed, some more successful than others. The American Professional Football Association (APFA) was one of these associations. It decided two years later in 1922 that the National Football League (NFL) was a lot easier to remember while drunk (I embellished that part a bit).

Like every great American story we can’t forget that things were done before our time. Cleopatra for example may be asking, “What does this glass ceiling in this American presidential race mean?”

It is possible that football may have not been an American/England thing. This great Wikipedia article details various games all over the world that look exactly like football (at least to me). One of my favorites is “Mob Football” which is pictured below. Let’s hope their half time involved nachos and not bandaging stab wounds.


At Mohr IP Law we catch the ball and carry it. We don’t fumble. Our team huddles to come up with the best plays for your intellectual property protection needs. And ultimately, we will join you in your end zone dance.

My football knowledge is a work in progress and I’ve learned a lot, but for now I’ll stick to playing Nerf Football on the field while watching Mob Football (the presidential race) on the TV.

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