Pro Football Returns Home to Pittsburgh on Its 120th Birthday
On November 12, 1892, the first professional football player made his appearance in the United States. William "Pudge" Heffelfinger became the first pro football player on this day, when he accepted a $500 pay check from Pittsburgh's Allegheny Athletic Association to play against their rival Pittsburgh Athletic Club.
Before Heffelfinger, players accepted payment of their expenses or various items from their clubs, but never straight out cash payments.
A month before, the AAA and PAC squared off in a battle that finished in a 6-6 tie and a boat-load of controversy. The AAA became livid when they found out that the PAC had recruited A.C. Read, captain of the Penn State football team, as a ringer in the game.
The two agreed to play another game in a month's time.
This time, the PAC wouldn't settle for a college player, but someone with a little more experience. The PAC manager had his eye on a Chicago Athletic Association player who could push them over the top. Originally, the PAC offered Heffelfinger and one of his teammates $250 apiece to play for the club in the game against the AAA.
But this time, the AAA caught wind of the PAC's plans and jumped at the chance to make a move. The AAA offered Heffelfinger double the money the PAC would give him if he'd play for their team, and he did.
Heffelfinger scored the only touchdown of the game against the PAC, and the AAA won the matchup in shutout fashion. The next time the two teams met, both sides were paying players cash, and within a year, team managers were signing $50-a-week contracts.
The game between the AAA and PAC happened 120 years ago today in Pittsburgh, making the city the technical home of "professional" football.
Tonight, professional football returns to the city that fathered it when the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. The NFL wouldn't be developed for another 28 years when representatives met in Canton, Ohio to begin the game we all know today, but 120 years after the first "professional" football player stepped foot on a field, two teams will matchup in the same city.
This story doesn't really have any impact on tonight's game and neither team could, in all likelihood, name the first professional football players. But it's just an interesting story to know that Pittsburgh was the home of professional football, as it will be tonight.
Check out History.com's article on the first professional football player here
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