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The football has undergone several major changes in size and shape in its fascinating history. The earliest footballs were called Watermelon footballs because the shape of the ball was more Melon shape then football shape. This largeand wide football was from the 1870 thru the 1905 era. It had a wide girth and longer body ( view one at And this huge old ball was used for power flying wedge plays where players locked arms and held each others belts as they surged forward with the ball carrier in between . The large Watermelon ball was never passed forward as forward passes were not allowed in the 1880-1905 era. It was made for the flying wedge and the Dropkick & lateral style game and pre leather football helmets . This was the time when the dropkick was worth more points than a touchdown. Dropkick or field goal was worth 5 points , 1 point for a safety, 2 points for a touch down and 4 points for point after touch down. Now you see why it was called "foot-' ball! More points were given for kicking plays. This scoring was from the 1880s- 1896. Passing wasn't allowed until 1906 and that had a lot of restrictions too. And in 1905 -1906 the ball changed size as the newly formed NCAA tried to open up the game and the ball was downsized to the smaller watermelon football. but still larger than todays football. And the forward pass was permitted starting in 1906 but with a lot of restrictions. For example an incomplete pass could be recovered by either team -if it had ben touched. And all passes had to cross scrimage line on a limited 5 yards from snap! And a forward pass could not go further thn 20 yards! No scrambling. This second evolution of the football was smaller but still had a wider girth than the modern streamlined ball. There are examples of these ball to be seen at the web page under their football section. Most of these early balls are extinct and are very valuable if ever found. Past Time Sports makes beautiful aged looking versions of both of these rare footballs and they can be found on their web page at

There are images of both of these balls side by side and great pictures of teams of that time period holding the old balls. The modern football became smaller and more streamlined gradually in the 1930s and today it is much easier to wrap your hand around a modern football which has the passing game as its main focus. In 1913 when new rules allowed the forward pass to be thrown for more than 20 yards Knute Rockne , playing end for Notre Dame teamed up with his quarterback Gus Dorais and revolutionized the passing game by beating a heavily favored Army team 35 to 13. Most teams of the time didn't use or understand the passing game at all. When Rockne as an end for Notree Dame used the new rule of more than 20 yards on the pass in his planning and attack it revolutionized the game. It brought fame to Notre Dame and allowed the new passing game to bring the Eastern football powers to their knees as the whole game underwent this arial revolution using the smaller, but still wide watermelon football. Rockne went on after graduation to become Notre dames coach and stayed with them until his death in 1931.

The evolution of the football is fascuinating and the rules changes that accompanied it are also very unusual you can read about all of this at the web page hwre you can se the balls and th teams of that great early history.

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โˆ™ 2011-09-12 21:34:12
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Q: Did the original footballs look like the ones we use today?
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