National Football League

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Thorpe, Jim.jpg
Photograph of Olympic athlete and professional football player Jim Thorpe, ca. 1920-1929. Thorpe was a Native American of Sac and Fox descent and played football at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 1912 he was the Olympic decathlon champion. Thorpe was one of the early superstars of the National Football League and served as the League's first president. He played for several professional football teams in Ohio: the Canton Bull Dogs, Cleveland Indians and Oorang Indians.

During the 1910s, American football became an increasingly popular sport. Professional teams arose. Private businesses or individual communities usually sponsored the teams. They became a source of pride for the businesses and towns.

The first major attempt to unify the various professional football teams into a national league occurred in 1920, with the formation of the American Professional Football Association. The league was founded in Canton, Ohio. Illustrating Ohio's important role in early professional football, five of this leagues first teams were from the state. The leagues original teams included the Canton Bulldogs, the Cleveland Tigers, the Dayton Triangles, the Akron Professionals, the Rochester (N.Y.) Jeffersons, the Rock Island Independents, the Muncie Flyers, the Decatur Staleys, the Chicago Cardinals, the Buffalo All-Americans, the Chicago Tigers, the Columbus Panhandles, the Detroit Heralds, and the Hammond Pros.

The American Professional Football Associations first president was Jim Thorpe. He played football for the Canton Bulldogs during the 1910s. He also coached the team. Under Thorpe's leadership, the Bulldogs were the unofficial world champions in 1916, 1917, and 1919. He inspired respect within all those who played against him. His contributions to the game led him to become the highest paid player in the league during its early years. Thorpe retired as a player from professional football in 1928. At that time, he played for the Chicago Cardinals. He made tremendous contributions to the modernization of the game and the professionalization of football during his lifetime, both on the field and off.

In 1922, the American Professional Football Association officially changed its name to the National Football League. In the leagues early decades, there was a tremendous turnover of teams. Numerous communities tried to sponsor teams but quickly realized that they could not cover the expenses. Teams also commonly moved, lured away by other communities that offered a more lucrative financial deal. During the leagues history, numerous teams called Ohio's cities home. These teams include and their dates of existence are:

· Canton Bulldogs (1920-1923) (1926-1926)

· Cleveland Tigers (1920-1921)

· Akron Professionals (1920-1926)

· Dayton Triangles (1920-1929)

· Columbus Panhandles (1920-1922)

· Cincinnati Celts (1921-1921)

· Marion Oorang Indians (1922-1923)

· Toledo Maroons (1922-1923)

· Columbus Tigers (1923-1924) (1926-1926)

· Cleveland Indians (1923-1923) (1931-1931)

· Cleveland Bulldogs (1924-1925) (1927-1927)

· Akron Indians (1926-1926)

· Portsmouth Spartans (1930-1934)

· Cincinnati Reds (1932-1934)

· Cleveland Rams (1937-1943)

· Cleveland Browns (1949-1996) (1999-present)

· Cincinnati Bengals (1968-present)

Because of Ohio's prominent role in professional football, the National Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, where the league began in 1920.

See Also