NFL History: The Evolution of the NFL Player

The NFL league that we all know and love wasn’t always like this. Like any other sport, American football went through different phases until becoming a discipline worthy of every sports fan around the world. But it wasn’t just the game and the rules that changed over the year. The evolution of the NFL player is quite remarkable and it can be an amazing insight into the progress that Ameican football has made throughout the years.

Nowadays, NFL players are celebrities who work and train hard for their team in order to achieve amazing results. Once upon a time, to be a professional American football player meant you had to have another job in order to bring food to the table because the pay from playing wasn’t enough. In the modern world, it’s easy for a bettor to get top New Jersey sportsbook apps and make an assumption about a team who is filled with gigantic and strong men. But back in the day, the players were just ordinary Joes, not so different from the people in the audience. In this article, we’ll go through these and more difference that made the NFL player what he is today.

The First Official Player

Certainly, the first players ever to play American football were neither strong nor fast as the players of our age. But what makes those people special is that paved the way for the entire discipline to become what it is. William “Pudge” Heffelfinger was the first one to be paid in cash for participating in a football game. He received only $500 and it was the first recorded football paycheck in American history. Unlike the NFL players of the modern era, Heffelfinger also had to work at the railroad to be able to survive. So, on November 12, 1892, he received two offers. One from Allegheny Athletic Association and the other from Pittsburgh Athletic Club. Up until that moment, all players were considered amateurs, and haven’t been paid to play. Heffelfinger accepted the higher offer, thus introducing the pay-to-play model.

A Football Family That Changed It All

In the 1900s many of the players were still normal people whose strength came from hard labour. But all was about to change when six outsized brothers who worked on the railroads in Ohio, became interested in the game and started practising it during their lunch breaks. In 1907, the Nesser brothers were spotted by Joe Carr who formed a team called Columbus Panhandles and got all six brothers to play together. The Nesser’s began to draw a lot of attention to the sport, but not only from the audience. Pentathlon gold medalist, Jim Thorpe, joined the Canton Bulldogs, for the price of $250 per game. In 1920, the American Professional Football Association accepted both of these teams as members, and in 1922 it changed its name to National Football League.

Post-WWII Era

The period after The Second World War brought about some changes for the NFL. After the ban that kept the African-Americans from the league from 1933 to 1945, they have once again returned on the field.

Another change involved a new rule that would make an impact on the entire league. In the beginning, all players were of similar size. This was mostly due to the fact that they had to play multiple positions and substitutions weren’t allowed. In 1949, the substitutions were finally allowed, mostly because of the shortage of men who wanted to play after WWII. This changed the way the game was played in many ways, Firstly, now players could specialize only for one position. And secondly, they weren’t forced to play the full time of the game.

Football As A Professional Calling

These and many other changes made it possible for players to turn their passion into a career. Today, players have football-specific training, special diet, and professional helping them to improve their strategies and live completely off their salaries. All this because a handful of pioneers who more than a hundred years ago loved a notion of a new and interesting game that brought fun and excitement during some darker times.

Before You Go Pro
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