The Towns That Started It All

December 30, 2021

It’s officially the National Football League’s 100th season.

Football has been with us our whole lives – it’s hard to imagine a time without touchdowns and turnovers! But exist it did, until 1920, when the NFL established the league with 13 towns and 14 charter teams. Scroll down to check out a little history about the towns and teams that started it all! 
Akron, OH
Home to the Akron Pros, a team that broke an impressive amount of ground for any time period, let alone 1920! Led by Fritz Pollard, the first-ever black coach and player in the League, the team took home the first American Professional Football Association – or APFA, now the NFL – Championship after an 8-0-3 season. 
Buffalo, NY
Before the Buffalo Bills, New York cheered for the Buffalo All-Americans. Technically, they were the highest scoring team in the league’s inaugural season, but didn’t win the championship – and thus the first NFL controversy was born. The team missed out on the Cup for a few complicated reasons, one being that championships at the time were decided by voting. 
Canton, OH
Now known for its Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton – birthplace of the Canton Bulldogs – was the town where the initial ten teams gathered in 1920 to create the American Professional Football Association, now known as the National Football League. 
Chicago, IL
Chicago has a special place on this list for being the birthplace of not one, but two, founding NFL teams! The Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) and the Chicago Tigers (the first ever NFL team to disband, but a team that lives on in our hearts). 
Cleveland, OH
The Cleveland Tigers had a rough time during that first league season, scoring 2-4-2. The Tigers did manage to score 7 points against season champions the Akron Pros, though – and they happened to be the only points scored by anyone against the Pros all season.
Columbus, OH
Columbus was known in the ‘20s for its many railroads. Since the team happened to be full of railroad workers that had worked together, Columbus named their team the Panhandles in honor of the players that worked on the famous Panhandle, Pennsylvania section of the railroad. 
Dayton, OH
You can’t find collars more blue than the Dayton Triangles’ (although the Columbus Panhandles are certainly a competitor). The team started as a recreational team for employees from three local Dayton engineering and production factories. 
Decatur, IL
To be fair, Decatur has its own blue collar cred – the Staleys were a recreational team originally thrown together to inspire morale amongst the workers at Staley Manufacturing. The Staleys are better known, however, for eventually becoming the beloved Chicago Bears. 
Detroit, MI
Before the Detroit Lions, there were the Detroit Heralds. The team were early marketing whizzes, being the first independent football team in the US to publicize their players to stir up fan support, as well as the first team to put numbers on their jerseys. 
Hammond, IN
It’s said that the NFL’s true potential for success was first seen at a Hammond Pros game in 1919. The Pros played against the Canton Bulldogs that day, drawing a huge crowd for the time of between 10,000 and 12,000 fans. 
Muncie, IN
The Muncie Flyers (originally called the Congerville Flyers, after the local athletic club it was started at) played in the APFA for five seasons, but didn’t have an easy time of it. They lost their very first game to the Rock Island Independents 45-0. Great name, though. 
Rock Island, IL
Although the Independents were only with the NFL until 1926 (eventually leaving to become a charter member of the American Football League), in that time they stirred up quite a reputation. They won their very first game 45-0, and managed to produce four Pro Football Hall of Fame members. 
Rochester, NY
Surprising considering the recruitment traditions of football nowadays, the ultimate downfall of the Rochester Jeffersons was that the team had recruited too many non-local players. The team just couldn’t stir up support from Rochester locals to watch a bunch of ‘outsiders’ play ball.

Tagged: Football, NFL