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On This Date in Sports November 12, 1892

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com


William “Pudge” Heffelfinger becomes the first professional football player when he is paid $500 by the Allegheny Athletic Association in a game against the rival Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The AAA got what they paid for as he scored the game-winning touchdown on a fumble recovery. Heffelfinger a three-time All-American while at Yale was playing with the Chicago Athletic Association before being offered a bonus and travel expenses to play with Allegheny.

As American Football developed, mainly on college campuses a number of amateur club teams began to spring up. Many former college players would join the club teams and continue their career on the gridiron. When the Allegheny Athletic Association paid William “Pudge” Heffelfinger it was not widely known, as it was not until 70 years later that an account ledger detailing the payment was discovered while Pittsburgh Steelers Owner was doing research on the history of football in Pittsburgh. The AAA added a second professional player a week later when Ben Donnelly was paid $250 in a game against William and Jefferson College, a game that Allegheny lost 8-0 despite having two professionals on the team.

In 1895, John Brallier was the first player to be openly paid to play football when he received $10 from Latrobe Athletic Association. Soon the entire Latrobe team was receiving money to play football, as the Duquesne Country and Athletic Club was the first team to have a formal owner, as the team’s salary in 1898 was bankrolled by William Chase Tempe. With so many players being paid, the Western Pennsylvania Football Circuit was the closest thing to an actual professional football league prior to the turn of the century. While Professional football slowly began elsewhere, a club in Chicago called the Morgan Athletic Club began to play in 1898. The team would go through several incarnations over the next two decades, but was a charter member of the NFL in 1920, playing as the Chicago Cardinals. The team would later move on to St. Louis and Arizona but remains the oldest active professional football franchise.