The history of American football

Nathan Turoff, Features Editor

Less than two weeks ago, The Tampa Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs and won Super Bowl LV. Football is seen as a quintessential mainstay of American Culture, and it has been for decades, but why? Where did American Football come from? These are questions that are unknown to most except the most seasoned of football fans. The Director of Sport Management at UNF, Professor Kristi Sweeney, met with Spinnaker to give some details on the past, present, and future of what is arguably America’s favorite sport.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates winning the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

Sweeney explained how American Football actually had its origins in Europe, and it was brought over to America, where it was played by disorganized groups. It was in the early 1900s that colleges and universities were starting to participate in organized sports, football among them. The rules were eventually standardized by the Ivy League schools, and football only grew from there.

The American Football League would eventually become the National Football League as we know today, and the first Super Bowl would be held in 1967. The Super Bowl itself, in addition to the massive salaries of football players, has greatly increased public interest in the sport.

“The NFL is projected, by 2025, to make 25 billion dollars, annually,” predicts Sweeney.

As for why Football is hardly played elsewhere around the world, Sweeney explained that it actually is, but just nowhere near the level of organization we have here in America. Sweeney explained how very few foreign-born American athletes play football, with only roughly three percent of players in the NFL being foreign-born. Sweeney attributed American football’s slow spread to other countries due to its foreign origin, and name confusion with what we refer to as soccer. It is also viewed as justifiably dangerous and hard to organize, while some people see it as a slow game.

“Being Americans, we think everybody loves everything American, because we love everything American,” joked Sweeney in regards to the name discrepancy. She explained how football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the world.

“Maybe they should have named it something different?” said Sweeny, sarcastically.

As for the future of American football, Sweeney explained how fewer kids are playing football than in previous years, but she remains confident that the sport and culture will stay strong regardless. She explained how the NFL changes rules to keep its players safe, especially after all the research that links football with brain trauma. She believes that the sport will evolve, and it will evolve safely.


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