Research Update 2: A History of the Passing Game in Pro Football

Pre-NFL (1880-1919)

While the roots of American Football can be traced back to the 17th century, the game as we know it today did not really begin to take shape until 1880. While the first game of intercollegiate “American Football” was famously played between Rutgers and Yale in 1869, it hardly resembled today’s game. Beginning in 1880, Walter Camp, the “Father of American Football” added stability to the game at annual intercollegiate rules conferences. He proposed that the number of players on the field at a time be reduced from 15 to 11 from each team. He also added the line of scrimmage and the snap from center to quarterback to add form and order to the game. In 1882 he proposed the first down and distance rules, originally requiring an offense to travel a minimum of five yards in three plays; a failure to do so would be a turnover.

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