The Evolution of Football

If you were to watch an American football game 150 years ago, you would not recognize many of the rules.  Over the course of the past century and a half, we have seen the transformation from a soccerish/rubbyish game to America’s favorite sport.  But what caused the evolution of football? 

There were many micro-changes barely noticed, as well as some major ones that drastically pushed the game into a new direction.  This is where this week’s guest comes into play.  He took a holistic approach to how the game of football evolved over the years, and he created a book called How Football Became Football: 150 Years of the Game’s Evolution.  This episode is only a glimpse into the depth of the book. 

You can jump below to get a little overview of the book, as well.

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Timothy P. Brown is the author of How Football Became Football: 150 Years of the Game’s Evolution and Fields of Friendly Strife. Tim combines years of research experience and the insight of a former college football coach to illuminate football’s past and its relevance to the modern game.

Tim also has a website, with a blog covering more information beyond his books that I suggest you take a look at.  Keep checking back with his site, as you’ll notice an overhaul to compliment the new book.

Bio photo of Timothy P. Brown - author of How Football Became Football and Fields of Friendly Strife
Photo courtesy: Timothy P. Brown

Note – As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Evolution - A Definition For Football Fans

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one of the definitions of the word evolution is described as:

a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state” ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary website

This may be the best of the many evolution definitions presented in the dictionary.  Football has evolved over past 150 years from a tiny little afterthought to a behemoth of an industry and America’s favorite sport.  To solve the riddle, Timothy P. Brown wrote an in-depth book of the many changes over the years.

How Football Became Football

How Football Became Football traces football’s evolution from a version of rugby played before a handful of friends to a spectacle played in packed stadiums before television audiences of 100 million or more. The story describes football’s three eras, and each era includes chapters describing the many changes in the game.  Some of these changes revolve around the rules, others around the equipment, and this is just the beginning.

  • The Ball, Field, and Stadium: Details changes to the football itself, the playing field and markings, and the stadiums that hosted the games.
  • Play and Techniques: Covers the changes in the game’s rules, innovations in blocking, tackling, and passing techniques, as well as play design and strategies.
  • Player Equipment: Discusses how and why players began wearing protective padding and headgear, the shift from using leather and wool to plastics and artificial fabrics, and the rise of player numbers, logos, and other aesthetic changes to uniforms.
  • Coaches and Officials: Describes how coaches shifted from being part-time volunteer advisors to full-time, highly-compensated professionals who took control of the game from the players. Similarly, the discussion covers the expanded role and size of officiating crews as football increased in complexity.
  • Off The Field: Outlines changes in fan behavior and traditions, the role of the media, and the governing bodies that controlled football over the years.

Richly illustrated and written in a fun, engaging manner, readers learn why maul-ins, puntouts, and quarterback kicks disappeared from the game, as well as how helmets, end zones, hash marks, and penalty flags became part of football. Walter Camp, Paul Brown, and Sid Gillman receive their due, while revealing the roles played by Frank Birch, John Lockney, and other lesser-known men who impacted the game. How Football Became Football provides a thoroughly researched and humorous look at how football became the game we know and love today.


If you liked this episode and post, I think you’ll enjoy the episode covering the history of rule changes in the NFL.

Hand Picked Blog Posts from Timothy

Timothy P. Brown Books

More Posts Covering Rules And Changes

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