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Facts About American Football

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American football is an extremely popular sport in the US and is played in high schools and colleges across the country. To those familiar with the rules it is a fascinating and exciting game, while the rules can be somewhat confusing to those who are yet to be initiated. However, even those who don’t regularly watch football matches in a stadium or on television can learn something about the game and find out that there are quite a few fun and interesting facts to be uncovered. Clearly, those who already have a passion for the sport may already know all there is to know!

American footballBall used in the game (brand: Wilson). © Torsten Bolten.


If you want to know where to start when watching or playing American football, the National Football League (NFL) is as good a place as any. This is the most popular football league and Americans from all walks of life watch NFL matches in stadiums or on television. Not everyone can compete on this scale, though, and so there is also the Arena Football League (AFL), in which football is played indoors or on smaller fields, which is obviously useful for smaller football teams that can’t compete with huge teams and their large budgets.

American football fieldAn American football field according to NFL specifications.


You may not know, but the fields on which football is played have the nickname of “gridirons”. In 1906, there were attempts to make the game safer by changing the layout of the field. Lines were drawn on the field both vertically and horizontally so that the referee could keep an eye on the distance being covered when passes were made. These lines resembled a checkerboard pattern or gridirons, which led to the nickname. Eventually the lines were removed in 1910, yet the nickname proved to be so popular that even today, people still call them gridirons.

Harold Edward "Red" GrangeAmerican football player Harold “Red” Grange (1903-1991). He is also nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost”. Pic taken in 1925. © LOC.

Harold ‘Red’ Grange

NFL may be a professional sport now, with sportsmen paid millions of dollars to kick and throw a ball, but it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, there were no major stars and the financial backers of American football were beginning to wonder if they would ever turn a profit. There was no systematic approach to the management of the game, so it was unclear whether there was even an overall champion. However, once Harold “Red” Grange came upon the scene in 1925, everything changed, as he was an incredible player and picked up a huge fan base and so helped NFL make its mark on American society.

Longer and thinner

The football used in NFL games has undergone some changes during the lifetime of the game, as it has become longer and thinner to enable players to pass the ball more often, since they would actually be able to catch and hold on to the ball. This decision was taken in 1934 and there has been no looking back since.

More on American Football

  1. Facts about the Super Bowl
  2. Who invented the game?