Know Ohio: Football History

Well this Sunday, many of us are likely to be glued to our televisions with some tasty snacks to watch the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers duke it out the Super Bowl. And while neither of Ohio’s NFL teams, the Browns and the Bengals, came close this year - Ohio has quite the legacy when it comes to the game of football. So let’s toss it over to Mary for the touchdown – I mean lowdown! Heads up Mary!

Thanks Rick, but I like to leave the football playing to the professionals. And many of those professionals happen to be from Ohio! In fact, within the two teams heading to this year’s Super Bowl are 5 former Ohio State Buckeyes. That gives Ohio State the most Super Bowl players of any other college.

And it’s not surprising, considering Ohio was instrumental in shaping professional football as we know it. The game of football was derived partly from a different game, rugby, and was played at colleges like Harvard and Yale in the late 1800’s, before it became a professional sport.

Although the first professional football game was technically played by our neighbor, Pennsylvania, Ohio quickly became the center of professional football during its formative years in the early 1900’s. Way before there was a National Football League, there was an Ohio football league – and Ohio was home to more football teams than any other state. Before the Browns and the Bengals, there were the Canton Bulldogs, the Massillon Tigers, the Dayton Triangles, and the Akron Professionals, to name a few.

By 1920, the Ohio League expanded to include other states and became the American Professional Football League, which is the precursor to the National Football League we know today. In fact, the NFL was headquartered in downtown Columbus, before moving to New York City back in 1939.

As a tribute to the role Ohio played in the creation of professional football, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was built in Canton, the city where the American Professional Football League was founded.

So as you watch ‘em toss around the ol’ pigskin in the Super Bowl, spare a thought for the rough and tough Buckeyes who played the game before all the glitz, glamour, and protective gear.

Instructional Links

Website Article: History Notebook, Ohio Football Links

Website Article: Wikipedia, Sports in Ohio

Timeline: Ohio State University, 125 Seasons of Buckeye Football

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