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The History of the NFL

The forerunner of American football may have been a game played by the ancient Greeks, called harpaston. In this game there was no limit to the number of players. The object was to move a ball across a goal line by kicking it, throwing it, or running with it.

Classical literature contains detailed accounts of the game, including its rougher elements, such as ferocious tackling.


Most modern versions of football originated in England, where a form of the game was known in the 12th century. In subsequent centuries football became so popular that various English monarchs, including Edward II and Henry VI, forbade the game because it took interest away from the military sport of archery. By the middle of the 19th century, football had split into two distinct entities. Still popular today, these two sports were soccer and rugby.

American football evolved from these two sports. The sport called soccer in the United States is still known as football throughout much of the world.

The first professional football game in the United States took place in 1895 in the town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, between a team representing Latrobe and a team from Jeannette, Pennsylvania. In the following years many professional teams were formed, including the Duquesnes of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the Olympics of McKeesport, Pennsylvania; the Bulldogs of Canton, Ohio; and the team of Massillon, Ohio. Noted college players who took up the professional game during its early years include Willie Heston (formerly at the University of Michigan), Fritz Pollard (Brown University), and Jim Thorpe (Carlisle Indian School).

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