Teddy Roosevelt helped institute the forward pass so football players would stop dying so much


– [Announcer] Hank’s going
to throw a pass to Jimmy. Come on Jimmy, you’re in the open. Oh well, you’ll have another chance. – Imagine football without passing. Sure, for some fans out there,
that might not be too hard. But in the early 1900s,
it was almost impossible to imagine football with passing. Prior to the establishment of the NFL, football was a college game
with few safety measures. Players protected their heads
with leather jock straps, and they used the same shoulder pads your mom wore on date night in 1984. As a result, people died. According the the Washington Post, 45 players died between 1900 and 1905. At least 18 of those were in 1905 alone. Injuries were also far more common, including Teddy Roosevelt’s own son, who suffered facial injuries during his freshman year at Harvard. But even so, Roosevelt was quoted saying, “I believe in rough games
and in rough, manly sports. I do not feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets
battered about a good deal so long as it’s not fatal.” Well, it was. And people were calling for change. While some schools pushed for reforms, others were flat-out
dropping football for rugby. With Roosevelt’s own Harvard threatening to drop their program, he decided to act. His goal was to minimize the danger, but not on too ladylike a basis. Because apparently only
women valued their lives, and real men fix broken skulls with gin. The leaders of college
football met with Roosevelt in the White House, and
agreed upon a new set of life-saving rules. The rules went into effect in 1906, and among the changes were
establishing a neutral zone to separate the offense from the defense, changing the necessary
yardage for a first down from five yards to 10, and
legalizing the forward pass. But we’re not talking
about the forward pass you know and love today. There were strict rules put in place to discourage pass attempts,
including a 15-yard penalty for an incompletion, a five-yard penalty for more
than one pass on a series, and any pass that went untouched by the intended receiver, was a turnover. These deterrents were a
big reason the forward pass wasn’t immediately embraced. But also, people just didn’t consider throwing the ball to be real football. Prior to the 1906 season,
St. Louis University hired former Wisconsin Badgers
assistant Eddie Cochems to be their next head coach,
giving him the reins of a team featuring other ex-Badgers,
including offensive end Bradbury Robinson, and
fullback Jack Schneider. Cochems was one of the
few actually excited about the concept of the forward pass. And he decided to take his
team on a retreat to Wisconsin, in order to focus on developing
this new aspect of the game. Luckily for them, Robinson had
learned how to throw a spiral during his time with the Badgers, and had since been developing
his ability to throw it. Then, on September 5th, 1906, St. Louis kicked off their season
against Carroll College, fittingly located in Waukesha, Wisconsin, 60 miles east of the
Badgers’ home in Madison, and 20 miles north of their
retreat location by Lake Beulah. Carroll College was a brick
wall for St. Louis’s offense. So they decided to catch them off-guard, and use their newly acquired air tactic. Bradbury Robinson switched positions with fullback Jack Schneider, then he took the snap
and heaved football’s first pass towards him. It fell incomplete. And without getting a hand on it, St. Louis forfeited possession to Carroll. But later that game, Robinson
and Schneider gave it another go, and connected
on the first touchdown pass. Schneider would later
state, “We were told to run after the snap, and just keep going until we heard the passer
yell hike, or our name. So I ran, and ran, I was about to give up when I heard Robinson call. I turned and caught the
ball a yard or so short of the goal, and went over with it.” St. Louis went on to finish
their season 11 and O, and outscored opponents 407 to 11. They weren’t the only team to
utilize the pass that season. They were, however, the
only ones to embrace it. In reference to the forward pass, the Galveston Daily News printed in 1907, “With the single exception of Cochems, football teachers were
groping in the dark.” Cochems’s vision of the forward pass went largely unadopted by other teams, until Notre Dame’s potent
aerial offense in 1913, a season that included a
shocking win over Army, a game often incorrectly credited as having the first forward pass. Two decades later, passing
rules were finally relaxed, permitting multiple passes in a series, and allowing a team to retain possession if a pass fell incomplete. Today, the game is primarily focused on throwing the football. And protections for the quarterback have allowed them to
continue slinging touchdowns well into their 40s. Which is just great.

100 thoughts on “Teddy Roosevelt helped institute the forward pass so football players would stop dying so much

  1. This is why people who recommend removing helmets would make the game safer are stupid. Read up on the pre helmet era and how common dying on the field was relative to today.

  2. In the old days pretty much all of the guys at the Ivy League institutions, and frankly anywhere, were all expected to play sports. Heck, even RFK played football at Harvard.

  3. Um, nothing about Carlyle Indian School and Pop Warner? Not the story I've heard. https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/football

  4. Wtf, why do you have a US army ad in the video? I'm glad to know you guys are helping out the worlds largest terrorist group, have fun with one less sub!

  5. The actual first "documented" forward pass took place in the 1895 UGA UNC game, before it was legal. The ref let the play stand because he didn't see the throw, proof refereeing has not improved in over a hundred years

  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1905_Washburn_vs._Fairmount_football_game

    Your statement about it being the first forward pass wasn't correct. Granted that wasn't a regular season game, but it was the first college one with legal (and 5 completed passes.)

    (There are a couple of other comments who suggest there were forward passes that did occur previously, but that weren't legal.)

  7. I was just thinking about the "invention" of the forward pass.
    Edit: The first rules for the forward pass were ridiculous!!!!

  8. 2:36 Saint Louis University is actually in St. Louis CITY, which is that small spot of un-shaded map between the incorrectly-shaded St. Louis COUNTY and the river

  9. I live 10 mins away from lake Beulah, never knew this. And Carroll college is now Carroll University filled with a lot of illinois kids.

  10. You may want to check a map of Wisconsin next time, Madison and Waukesha are in the County south. Just saying as a Madison resident.

  11. Teddy Roosevelt would be sad if he found out about all the rules we have protecting QBs these days. I also am sad, but no one cares about how I feel half as much as they care about how Teddy feels.

  12. I like how freely the narrator omits the racial aspect to many of those early football deaths. Most of those guys were minorities who would get beat to death on the field. This is around the same time all those Confederate statues were being put up in the south.

  13. As a Wisconsinite, it's really cool how many important football events happened in a state where not a whole lot happens.

  14. He should have banned the game. No more mass violence, no more mass rapes, no more abused women.

    Lacrosse would have made for a better national sport anyway.

  15. It's ironic that so many colleges dropped football in favor of rugby, because rugby is arguably far more dangerous. In fact, many have argued that rugby has some of the most dangerous plays of any contact sport. And the best part? Rugby players don't even wear helmets, which exponentially increases the risk of serious and potentially fatal head injuries.

    Also, Madison is too far north and west on this map. It's located in Dane County, Wisconsin, but on the map appears to be in Columbia or Sauk County.

  16. Teddy ruined football, I like it old school. The NFL should make the forward pass illegal, I want to see players die. Make football great again.

  17. The more you learn about early football the more you realize people back then were some lead-poisoned strychnine-laced cocaine-in-soft-drinks brainded dumbfucks.

  18. Fellow Wisonsinite here, props for saying Waukesha right and not like WAH KEE SHAH. Also I think that new rules like this need to be put in place now that we know about CTE, the games been changed before for safety and it can be again.

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