Why Is American Football Called Football?




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In this article, you will learn why American football is called football. We will explore the history and origins of the sport and delve into the rules, teams, players, and tactics involved. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned fan, this article will provide informative and engaging content about American football, focusing on the NFL (National Football League), touchdowns, quarterbacks, linebackers, the Super Bowl, playoffs, and the iconic pigskin. So let’s kick off and discover the fascinating story behind the name of this beloved sport!

Why Is American Football Called Football?

If you’re a fan of American Football, you may have wondered why the sport is called football when the players primarily use their hands instead of their feet. The history behind the name is quite fascinating and involves a combination of influences from other sports, changes in rules and gameplay, and the adoption of specific terminology. In this article, we will explore the origins of American Football, the introduction of the term ‘football,’ the differences from soccer, the evolution of the rules, common terminology, important events, the significance of the pigskin, equipment used in the sport, and the tactics and strategies employed by players and coaches.

Origins of American Football

American Football can trace its origins back to the early 19th century when various forms of football were played in schools and universities across America. These early versions of the game had different rules and gameplay compared to what we see today, but they laid the foundation for the development of American Football. One significant influence on the sport was Rugby Football, which was introduced to the American soil by British immigrants.

Development of American Football

As American Football started to gain popularity in the mid-19th century, it began to differentiate itself from other forms of football, such as soccer and rugby. The game became more physical, with a focus on tackling and blocking opponents to gain possession of the ball. The players also started to develop specific roles and positions on the field, leading to a more strategic and structured gameplay.

Early Rules and Gameplay

In the early days of American Football, the rules were not standardized, and different regions and teams played with their own set of rules. However, as the sport gained more widespread popularity, the need for standardized rules became evident. In 1869, the first intercollegiate football game was played between Rutgers and Princeton, which marked the beginning of discussions to codify the rules and establish a governing body for the sport.

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Introduction of the Term ‘Football’

Influence of Rugby Football

One of the significant influences on the introduction of the term ‘football’ in American Football was Rugby Football. Rugby was a popular sport in both Britain and the United States, and it involved using both hands and feet to advance the ball. The physical nature of Rugby Football resonated with American players, and they sought to incorporate some aspects of the game into the evolving sport of American Football.

Use of Feet in American Football

Although American Football primarily relies on using hands to catch, throw, and carry the ball, the feet still play a crucial role in the game. Kicking is an essential part of American Football, whether it’s a field goal attempt, a kickoff, or a punt. This usage of the feet, albeit not as prominent as in soccer, was likely another reason why the term ‘football’ was adopted for the sport.

Adoption of the Term ‘Football’

The term ‘football’ was eventually adopted as the name for the emerging sport due to a combination of factors. It encompassed the physical nature of the game, the incorporation of aspects from Rugby Football, and the inclusion of kicking as a significant component. Ultimately, the sport evolved into its own distinct form, but the name ‘football’ remained, serving as a connection to its origins.

Why Is American Football Called Football?

Differences from Soccer

Physicality and Contact

One of the key differences between American Football and soccer is the level of physicality and contact involved. American Football is known for its intense tackles, powerful blocks, and hard-hitting collisions. Players wear protective equipment such as helmets and pads to minimize the risk of injury. In contrast, soccer focuses more on skill and finesse, with minimal contact.

Number of Players

American Football is typically played with eleven players on each team, while soccer is played with eleven players on each team as well. However, the positions and roles of the players differ greatly between the two sports. In American Football, players specialize in offense, defense, or special teams, each with specific roles and responsibilities on the field.

Playing Surface and Field Layout

The playing surface and field layout in American Football are distinct from soccer. American Football is played on a rectangular field with marked lines and zones for different purposes, such as the end zones, sidelines, and goalposts. In addition, the playing surface is usually artificial turf or grass. Soccer, on the other hand, is played on a larger field with natural grass or synthetic turf.

Evolution of American Football Rules

Codification of Rules

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, efforts were made to codify the rules of American Football. In 1876, representatives from Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers, and Yale held a meeting to establish a standardized set of rules. This led to the formation of a governing body known as the Intercollegiate Football Association. Over time, the rules continued to evolve and adapt to the changing nature of the sport.

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Introduction of Professional Football Leagues

In the early 20th century, professional football leagues started to emerge, such as the American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League or NFL). These leagues played a significant role in shaping the rules and structure of the sport. The NFL became the premier professional football league in the United States and continues to have a major influence on the development of the game.

The Impact of Innovations

Throughout the history of American Football, various innovations have had a profound impact on the sport. From the introduction of the forward pass by quarterback Benny Friedman in the 1920s to the implementation of instant replay technology in the 1980s, these innovations have shaped the way the game is played and officiated.

Why Is American Football Called Football?

American Football Terminology

Touchdown and Scoring

One of the most distinctive aspects of American Football is the terminology associated with scoring. A touchdown occurs when a player successfully carries the ball into the opponent’s end zone or catches a pass in the end zone. It is worth six points, and teams can also earn an extra point by kicking the ball through the goalposts or two points by running or passing the ball into the end zone again.

The Role of the Quarterback

The quarterback is often considered the most important position in American Football. They are responsible for leading the offense, calling plays, and throwing or handing off the ball. The quarterback is a crucial decision-maker on the field and is often the focal point of the team’s offense.

Defensive Positions like Linebacker

On the defensive side of the ball, one of the key positions is the linebacker. Linebackers are typically positioned behind the defensive line and are responsible for stopping the run, covering receivers, and rushing the quarterback on passing plays. They play a vital role in disrupting the opposing team’s offensive strategies.

American Football Events

The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the most significant annual event in American Football and is watched by millions of viewers around the world. It is the championship game of the NFL, played between the winners of the AFC and NFC conferences. The Super Bowl has become a cultural phenomenon, featuring high-profile halftime shows, memorable commercials, and intense competition on the field.

Playoffs and Championships

In addition to the Super Bowl, American Football features a playoff system at both the college and professional levels. The playoffs determine which teams will compete for the championship title in their respective leagues. These playoffs often showcase some of the most thrilling and intense moments in the sport.

Annual Events and Traditions

American Football has several annual events and traditions that are cherished by fans. From college football rivalries, such as the Ohio State vs. Michigan game, to Thanksgiving Day football games, these events bring together fans from all walks of life to celebrate the sport they love.

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Why Is American Football Called Football?

Significance of the Pigskin

Origin of the Term

The nickname “pigskin” for the American Football can be traced back to the early days of the sport when the ball was made from a pig’s bladder. Although modern footballs are no longer made from pig bladders, the term has stuck and is often used colloquially to refer to the football used in American Football.

The Use and Characteristics of the Football

The football used in American Football is an oval-shaped ball made of leather or synthetic materials. It is designed to be easy to grip and throw accurately, while also being durable enough to withstand the physical demands of the game. The shape and unique characteristics of the football make it suitable for both passing and kicking plays.

Symbolism in American Football

The football itself has become a symbol of American Football and all that it represents – teamwork, competition, and the spirit of the game. Fans often cherish autographed footballs as prized possessions, and the act of throwing or catching a football is seen as a symbol of camaraderie and shared passion for the sport.

Equipment in American Football

Protective Gear

American Football is known for its physical nature, and as a result, players wear a significant amount of protective gear. This includes helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, knee pads, and mouthguards. The purpose of this equipment is to minimize the risk of injury and ensure the safety of the players during intense collisions and tackles.

Uniform and Accessories

In addition to protective gear, players wear team uniforms that reflect their team’s colors and branding. This includes jerseys, pants, and socks. Some players also wear accessories such as gloves, visors, and wristbands, which can provide additional grip, protection, or style.

Specialized Equipment

Apart from the standard equipment, American Football also utilizes specialized equipment such as goalposts, pylons, and yard markers. These items are used to determine the boundaries of the field, score points, and track the progress of the game.

Tactics and Strategies in American Football

Offensive Plays

American Football is a strategic game that involves intricate plays and formations on the offensive side of the ball. Coaches design plays to exploit the weaknesses in the opposing defense and create opportunities for their team to advance the ball and score points. Offensive strategies often involve a combination of passing and running plays, as well as deception and misdirection to confuse the defense.

Defensive Formations

On the defensive side of the ball, teams employ various formations and schemes to counter the offense’s tactics. This includes lining up in different formations, blitzing the quarterback, and assigning specific players to cover receivers or defend against the run. Defensive strategies focus on disrupting the offense’s rhythm, creating turnovers, and preventing the opposing team from scoring points.

Game Management and Clock Control

Beyond the X’s and O’s of the game, American Football coaches also focus on game management and clock control. This involves making strategic decisions about when to use timeouts, when to go for it on fourth down, and how to manage the clock to maximize their team’s chances of winning the game. These decisions can often be the difference between victory and defeat.


In conclusion, American Football is called ‘football’ due to its roots in various forms of football played in the early days of the sport. The term ‘football’ encompasses the physical nature of the game, the influence of Rugby Football, and the use of kicking as an integral part of the sport. While American Football differs significantly from soccer in terms of gameplay, rules, and terminology, it has become a beloved sport with a rich history, passionate fans, and a unique culture. So next time you watch a game of American Football, you can appreciate the origins and significance behind its name.

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