When Was The NFL Formed?

A quick history of the National Football League – from its humble beginnings in the 1920s to today’s multi-billion dollar industry.

The Early Years

The National Football League (NFL) was formed in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) before renaming itself the National Football League for the 1922 season. The NFL agreed to merge with the American Football League (AFL) in 1966, and the first Super Bowl was held at the end of that season; the merger was completed in 1970.

The Birth of Professional Football

In 1892, Allegheny Athletic Association paid William (Pudge) Heffelfinger $500 to play a game against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, making him the first professional football player.
The following year, the Pittsburgh Stars signed several players to profession contracts, including Hall of Famers Pudge Heffelfinger and John Brallier.
In 1902, the first professional championship was held when the Pittsburgh Stars defeated the Philadelphia Athletic Club in a game that featured a then-record 63 players.

Today, professional football is one of America’s favorite pastimes. Millions of fans tune in each week to watch their favorite teams battle it out on the gridiron.

The First Professional Football League

On November 12, 1892, William “Pudge” Heffelfinger was paid $500 by the Allegheny Athletic Association to play in a game against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. This is widely recognized as the first instance of payment to a football player, making Heffelfinger the first professional football player.

Just four days later, on November 16, 1892, another game was played between the Latrobe Athletic Association and the Allegheny Athletic Association. This too is considered a professional game because one of Latrobe’s players, Edgar Allan Poe, was paid $10 to play.

While these two games are often considered the start of professional football, there were a number of other teams and players that were paid before these games took place. In some instances, it is unclear whether or not players were actually paid or if they simply received reimbursement for missing work.

The first professional football league was founded in 1902 and was called the National Football League (NFL). This league only lasted two years before it disbanded in 1904.

The Modern Era

The National Football League was formed in 1920. The league originally had 10 teams. The teams were located in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. The NFL was created because the pro football teams of the time were not regulated.

The American Football League

In 1959, the upstart American Football League began to challenge the established National Football League for supremacy in professional football. The younger league lured many of the NFL’s top players to its teams with the promise of higher salaries. The two leagues reached an agreement in 1966 to merge into a single, combined NFL, which began play in 1970.

The Merger

In 1920, the American Professional Football Association was formed. The first game was played on October 3, 1920, between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles in Dayton, Ohio. TheTriangles won 14-0.

The Association began with 11 teams in two divisions, the Eastern Division and the Western Division. Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs was named the first APFA president.

In 1922, the APFA changed its name to the National Football League. The league continued to grow each year, adding new teams and absorbing other professional football leagues. By 1932, the NFL had embraced almost all of professional football when it absorbed most of the remaining teams from the New York Yankees and Boston Braves of the last surviving major competing league (NFL).

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