49 Interesting Facts About American Football

Last updated on September 28th, 2020

41. The 1983 Redskins had one of the most lopsided records in history for the differential between takeaways and giveaways. The team had a positive +43 differential while either teams have never gotten higher than 30.[5]

42. Here’s an astonishing fact about early football games: The forward pass was not allowed, and players were limited to working through the line of scrimmage. Early football games were informal and often included 11, 15, 20 or 25 men to a team. During a Yale-Princeton game, Walter Camp threw a forward pass to Oliver Thompson, who scored a touchdown. The Princeton Tigers, as you might imagine, protested vigorously.[7]

43. Teddy Roosevelt threatened to ban football unless the rules were changed to make playing the game safer. The new rules allowed the forward pass, which has become the heart of the game.[7]

44. The huddle was introduced back in the 1890s by Paul Hubbard, who was a deaf player that used hand signals to call plays. Bringing the team together surrounding the quarterback was an approach used to prevent competitors from seeing the signals.[7]

45. William “Pudge” Heffelfinger has the honor of being the first legal professional player. He was paid $500 to play a game in 1892, and he also became the first pro to sport a nickname. He played college football between 1888 and 1891 at Yale, and the 1891 and 1888 teams were undefeated. The team only lost two games in four years. Pudge was later chosen to play on Walter Camp’s All-American team, and Pudge played every minute of the scheduled games during his last year at Yale.[7]

46. The first televised pro game occurred in 1939. The spectacle was less compelling than a modern Super Bowl game. The first televised game only reached about 500 television sets, and the commercials were nothing to generate buzz at the water cooler. The game was between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Eagles. The 500 broadcast sets were located in New York.[7]

47. There’s a difference between college and professional footballs. The balls used in college games have white stripes on each end, which make the ball theoretically easier to see in flight.[7]

american football facts
An American football ball. Image credit – Parker Anderson

48. The shape of a football is unique among sports, and the “pigskin” is best described as a “prolate spheroid.” However, the game has become so popular that the term “football-shaped” is used to describe this unusual shape.[7]

49. Football games don’t top the news, but they can come close. After John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger convinced the NFL commissioner to continue two important games because JFK would have wanted him to do it. However, the games never aired on television because of post-assassination coverage and the killing of suspect Lee Harvey Oswald.[4]

Interesting Facts American Football Players

1. Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice is one of the most celebrated football players by virtue of holding the most records in many statistical categories for receivers. Rice won three Super Bowls and an AFC championship with San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders respectively.[8]

2. Tom Brady

Tom Brady has won more Super Bowls than any player — six rings that won’t even fit on one hand. His full name, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. is a bit unwieldy, so Tom Brady it is. He is just behind Drew Brees in the all-time passing record — 74,416 yards vs. Brees, who has 77,416 yards.[9]

3. Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor is only the second player in history to win the MVP award as a defensive player. Taylor only started playing as a junior in high school, but he quickly rose to team captain at North Carolina.[10]

4. Jim Brown

Jim Brown was named “Rookie of the Year” in 1957, and he played exceptional football for the Cleveland Browns. In fact, Brown performed better than any other player during his nine seasons before retiring at age 30. Brown rushed 12,312 yards and posted a total of 15,459 yards in his career.[11]

5. Walter Payton

Walter Payton carried an unusual nickname for a football player, “Sweetness.” He established many records during his career and earned nine Pro Bowl selections and induction into the Hall of Fame. “Sweetness” was known later for his charitable work.[12]

6. Joe Montana

Joe Montana was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round, but he went on to prove his value as the quarterback of record for four Super Bowl Wins — including consecutive wins in 1989 and 1990. He moved to the Kansas City Chiefs but retired later and was named to the Hall of Fame in 2000.[13]

7. Reggie White

Reggie White played as defensive end, and he dominated other defensive linemen during his career. Spanning a 15-year career, White was selected to play in the Pro Bowl 13 times in succession. He led the all-time record for career sacks as of his retirement in 2000.[14]

8. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning has played in four Super Bowls and won two of them. Known for his preparation, Manning quarterbacked for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. He has made four Pro Bowl appearances and won the NFL’s MVP trophy five times.[15]

9. Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas didn’t start out as a great quarterback, but he worked hard at his craft to become one of the greatest QBs of all time. Nicknamed “The Golden Arm,” Unitas led the Colts against the New York Giants on December 28, 1958, in the first live broadcast for pro football. The game went into overtime with some of the greatest talent in NFL history. The Colts won 23-17.[16]

10. Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders gained 18 yards in his first performance with the Lions, and he racked up 1,470 yards during his first season, which was 10 yards shy of the record. He later scored the highest number of rushing yards in 1990, 1,304 yards.[17]

11. Joe Greene

Joe Greene, known professionally as “Mean Joe Greene,” was one of the best defensive linemen in NFL history. Greene, who was Rookie of the Year in 1969, became famous as the anchor of Pittsburgh Steelers famous “Steel Curtain” defense. Greene was instrumental in four Super Bowl wins (1975, 1976, 1979, 1980).[18]

12. Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus, known as a TV commentator in later years, earned his fame as a first-round draft pick in 1965. Sporting exceptional speed and agility, Butkus was a big defensive star before retiring due to a knee injury in 1973. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1979.[19]

13. Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott was a first-round draft pick and eighth player chosen in 1981, and he played for the San Francisco 49ers. His contributions helped the 49ers win the Super Bowl in his first year. He was also the second rookie to score three touchdowns on interceptions.[20]

14. Anthony Munoz

Anthony Munoz played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1980 to 1992, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. Munoz was picked for the Pro Bowl 11 times, and in 1990, he won the Walter Payton “Man of the Year” award.[21]

15. Deacon Jones

Decan Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 for his performance with the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins. Over his career, Jones was an All-Pro selection five times and a Pro Bowl selection eight times.[22]

16. Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders enjoyed two nicknames during his career: “Prime Time” and “Neon Deion.” Sanders enjoys the distinction of playing in both a World Series and Super Bowl. Sanders admitted that he attempted suicide by car in 1997. He was selected for the Bro Bowl eight times.[23]

17. Otto Graham

Otto Graham became the first recruit for the All-America Football Conference, which was organized by Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns. Graham was a tailback, but he quickly mastered the T-formation to become a perfect quarterback. Graham led the team to four AAFC titles and a 52-4-3 record.[24]

18. John Elway

John Elway had an unusual rise to fame. After being drafted in major league baseball by the Kansas City Royals, he opted to attend Stanford on a football scholarship. Elway became the top draft pick in 1983 by the Baltimore Colts, but Elway threatened to play baseball unless he was traded. The Colts drafted him and traded him to the Broncos, where he enjoyed a stellar 16-year career.[25]

19. Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith excelled at the University of Florida by earning 58 school records before being a first-round pick for the Dallas Cowboys. As a running back, he became Rookie of the Year in 1990 and later captured four NFL titles for rushing. He later became a top football commentator.[26]

20. Dan Marino

Dan Marino was a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but he became the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins after being a first-round draft pick. Showing tremendous loyalty, Marino led the Dolphins for 17 seasons. Marino set many passing records, but his best season was 1984 when he set NFL records for passing for 5,084 yards and scoring 48 touchdowns.[27]

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