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American Football 101: An Introduction (History, Basics,…) For Beginners

American football, also known as the Gridiron, is a popular sport, well-known and ardently played in the United States. It is a team sport that involves a rectangular field, two goalposts on each side, and a team of eleven players on each side. The field is marked like an ancient cooking grill, and indeed, these players get “grilled” in every game.


The offensive team tries to advance the ball by running or passing down the field towards the defensive goal line. The defensive team aims to stop the other team’s offense advancement by taking control of the ball. 

The quarterback is the leading offensive player, who is responsible for passing the ball to other teammates, thereby advancing the ball towards the opponent’s goal line. One distinctive characteristic of American football is that players mostly use their hands to control the ball, and the ball is an oval shape.

How American Football Came To Be

American football started in the United States, and its evolution attributes to the sports of soccer and rugby. In other words, it hatched from the inter-mix of soccer and rugby. Both games contributed to the features and elements that make up American football

Initially, the rules of American football were significantly similar to the rules of soccer. However, Walter Camp, considered the Father of American football, introduced a new set of rules in 1880.

The combination of rugby in the game involved vicious attacks and getting pushed down with force, which sometimes leads to severe injuries. In the early days, the game became a violent sport, and players started to succumb to such fatality that many people opposed it. 

Changes in the rules of the game stopped the president from abolishing it. With time and after many changes in the laws, today, the game follows a strict adherence to abide by the set regulations. 

Initially, the game was played between colleges like Princeton, Yale, Harvard, etc., as a friendly intercollegiate match. The first-ever recorded paid player was William “Pudge” Heffelfinger in the year 1892. 

With time the game began to gain more popularity and became people’s favorite sport. Nowadays, it is a unique and widespread sport, especially in the United States of America.

The Name “American Football”

Many people question the validity of the name of the game and find it similar to rugby. The history of American football traces back to its foreign predecessors. 

The inspiration behind the game is two European games, rugby and soccer. The features, rules, and regulations of the American football game are similar to the early European games.

Some argue that American football should change its name to Rugby football, while others feel that the game resounds more in the spirit of soccer. 

There are many theories as to why it is called “Football,” however, the most straightforward logic is that it is a combination or a mash-up of the European football games. Over the years, American football evolved and brought about changes that enhanced the game.


The prominent league in American football is the National Football League, abbreviated as the NFL. It consists of 32 teams, divided evenly between the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference. The members of the NFL are incredibly professional players who receive high salaries. 

American Football in the US

Today, Americans live their football and love to watch the games. In the US, a career in football begins at a young age that leads to proper coaching during the academic years, and pursuing all through college until getting selected for professional teams. 

Apart from professional players, the audience too has a personal connection with the game. American football is said to be older than the telephone, which means its relationship is deeply rooted in the country’s history. 

The growing love and demand for the game increased the number of play-days in recent times. The full-body clashing action is another reason for most people to get the fun out of the games. 

Over time, it became even more exciting as fans or followers of opposing teams crowded the stadium every game day to support and cheer for their team.

FAQ About American Football

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

1. What are the basic rules of American football?

To score a touchdown, the team has to cross the opponent’s goal line holding the ball. It also involves catching or collecting the ball in the end zone. This external link provides a complete presentation of the basic rules of American football

2. Why is American football called football when you play it with your hands?

The reason for this context attributes to its origin. American football originated from two different popular sports, soccer (aka football) and rugby. These sports involve getting the ball across a goal line and using the feet to kick the ball at a goal.

3. What are the qualities of a good football player?

One of the qualities of a good football player is discipline, which is essential for any given sport. Other essential attributes of a good football player include concentration, teamwork, and a positive attitude.

4. Did American football evolve from rugby?

American football has evolved from rugby and soccer, which are popular sports in other countries. 

On November 6, 1869, two universities from New Jersey played a game that was similar to rugby. This event led to the emergence of the first kind of American football. Walter Camp, the father of American football, helped during those years in creating the first rules for American football.

5. What skills does a quarterback need?

In American football, a quarterback should be capable of throwing the ball accurately. As such, a quarterback should have physical skills such as mobility and arm strength. 

Moreover, a quarterback should have intangible skills such as intelligence, leadership, and competitiveness, among others.

6. Why is football important to American culture?

The early 19th century marked the emergence of football as a popular sport for Americans. Since then, football, as a sport, has been used to express their passions, values, and national identity. The most prominent example is NFL football players, which is a professional American football league.

7. What are the benefits of playing American football?

There are several benefits of playing American football, ranging from physical workouts to mental and social well-being. Some of the essential benefits include overall body fitness, healthy teamwork, and good work ethics, among many others. 

Also, like any other sport, it teaches you the importance of dedication, disciple, and other related skills.

8. What American football position should I play?

Answering this question will significantly depend on one’s preference and abilities, as there are different football positions. Some of the American football positions include quarterback, linebacker, wide receiver, and cornerback, among others.

Getting Started (Training for American Football)

American football is a tough game that requires extra strength and willpower. Proper exercise helps in avoiding injuries during the game and staying active.

The game has different positions, and placing a particular player in the right station will yield a successful result. Some well-known postures are: 

  • Running Backs rely on speed, carrying the ball, fending off attacks, agility, awareness, etc.
  • Wide Receivers require the ability to fend off tackles, catch the ball, have speed, be agile, etc.
  • Quarter Backs must have superb arm strength, running speed, and taking the hit from opponents.
  • Defenders must have an excellent body built to defend.
  • Kickers and Punters need to have good leg strength. The position plays a vital role in guiding the team to win a score.

American football involves catching the ball with the hand, so building arm strength must be vital. Many exercises are available that help strengthens the arms and develop a tight grip.

Standing in the right position to catch the ball or running with it requires leg speed. Therefore, it is essential to build up leg strength with exercises like ladder running to develop speed. Such foot strength is also necessary to push back the opponent or fire into the defensive lineman.

Regular practice with conviction is a must when it comes to preparing for a game. A particular exercise may be repeated until it becomes flexible, easy, and hurts less. 

In the haste to do more and complete more exercise routines, many people make the mistake of skipping breaks. It is crucial to take minute breaks in between before continuing with the workout. Working out without taking a break can lead to many severe injuries and take away the chances of playing the game.

Furthermore, watching re-runs of the team’s play or the opponent’s game can be knowledgeable. It helps in re-arranging or correcting the mistakes and knowing the strength of the other side.

With all this in mind, it is essential to follow a consistent exercise routine that will help develop a healthy lifestyle. Also, remember to have a game plan to try and avoid severe injuries while on the field.