The History and Evolution of the NERF Football

Bennett SpectorSocial Media StaffDecember 14, 2011

Neon foam—that's all Twister inventor and toy developer Reyn Guyer needed to launch NERF in 1969 under Parker Brothers. Dubbed 'the world's first indoor ball,' NERF was such an instant success that within a year, millions of NERF balls had been sold. Moms everywhere rejoiced. The four-inch polyurethane foam ball was made for playing without breaking.

“Throw it indoors; you can't damage lamps or break windows. You can't hurt babies or old people."

1972 — The NERF Football

It all started with a simple foam ball, but the addition of the NERF football changed everything. Minnesota Vikings kicker Fred Cox invented and introduced the NERF football in 1972 and to this day receivers quarterly checks from Hasbro.

The NERF football became a reality in 1972, shortly after John Mattox introduced himself to Cox and solicited his opinion on the idea of a movable goal post that kids could position in their backyard to practice kicking. When told by Mattox that he intended to use a heavy ball so kids wouldn’t kick it out of their yard, Cox suggested a lighter alternative, something made of foam, to prevent, as he says, “a bunch of sore-legged kids.”

Inspired by the idea, the duo had a mold made of a full-sized football and employed an injection molder in the Twin Cities region to produce a prototype of the lightweight ball. The process resulted in a thick-skinned football that was denser than the existing round NERF balls intended for indoor play that entered the marketplace in 1970 (via Vikings.com).

Early 1980s — NERF Turbo Football Commercial

The NERF Turbo Football

Early 1990s — "Hey, You Want Hot Hands, You Got Hot Hands" 

1991 — The Vortex

The screaming football, called the Vortex, debuted. For the first time, children (yes, children) could hurl a football the same distance as quarterbacks in the NFL. Former Broncos quarterback and member of the NFL Hall of Fame John Elway acted as the primary spokesman for the Vortex. 

1996 — Vortex Mega Flight Commercial

1999 — Turbo Blast-back Ball

The first-ever football that you can play with by yourself, Mike McGonigle's invention of the PassBack Football was sold and began distribution under Hasbro. NERF marketed the ball as the Turbo Blast-back. 

2002 — NERF teams up with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning

2003 — NERF releases "The Peyton Manning Gyro Vortex"

The Vortex football built for distance thanks to the placement of the gyro rings, giving this ball the weight and balance to sail through the air and into your receiver’s hands….WAY down field!  - NERF

2004 — Recall of NERF Big Play Football

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, NERF was forced to recall 294,000 Big Play Footballs due to a, "hard plastic interior frame that can pose a risk of facial cuts if a child is hit during play."

The NERF Big Play Football is a red and silver NERF football with a silver flip-open top that reveals an erasable writing pad to plan football plays on in the center of the ball. The NERF name, an NFL logo and a large black “X” are on the silver region of the football. Mike Vick’s signature in red also is written on the football, and his photo is on the packaging.

2006 —NERF releases the Vortex Mega Howler

Pocket Vortex 

2009 - Present 

Pro Grip

Mega Howler

NFL Weather Blitz

Classic Turbo

After more than 40 years in the business, NERF continue to dominate streets and parks around the world. "It's NERF or nothing..." (via nerfhaven.com).


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.