On November 6, 1869, on a cold, windy day in New Brunswick, New Jersey, two teams from Rutgers and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) met in a contest often regarded as the first intercollegiate football game. Each team consisted of twenty-five men, and the only uniforms were scarlet scarves the Rutgers players wrapped around their heads. About a hundred spectators looked on, including a Rutgers professor who stayed only long enough to predict that “you men will come to no Christian end!”
That 1869 game was closer to soccer than modern American football. Players kicked the ball down the field and scored by sending it between two posts. Whichever team scored six goals first was to be the winner. Rutgers won 6-4.
Five years later, the game took a turn toward football as we know it when a team from McGill University in Montreal showed up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to play some fellows from Harvard. The McGill team, it turned out, had come to play rugby, which permitted players to run with the ball and tackle. The Harvard team played a more soccer-like game. They decided to play two games, first by Harvard’s rules, then by McGill’s. Most of the Harvard boys had never heard of rugby, but they went wild over the sport and soon introduced it to other U.S. colleges.
During the next few years, players began to mix rugby with the American kicking game – and out of that came football. In the 1880s Yale coach and former player Walter Camp led the way in establishing rules about downs, yards to gain, snapping the ball to the quarterback, and tackling below the waist. Camp, more than anyone else, is remembered as the father of American football.