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Walter Chauncey Camp

1859 – 1925 

American Football Pioneer

Sports Ranking 5th of 12

U.S. stamp from 2003.

Walter Camp conceived and designed most of the basic changes and departures from rugby and brought about their acceptance for football, such that he is now rightly known as the "Father of American Football." Camp was a member of the Intercollegiate Football Association. From 1880 this ruling body accepted various innovations proposed by Camp:  the 11-man team (instead of rugby's 15), the quarterback position, the scrimmage line, offensive signal calling, and the requirement that a team give up the ball after failing to advance a specified yardage in a certain number of downs (plays from scrimmage). In 1883, he secured the adoption of a scale of numerical values for scoring by touchdown, try for point after touchdown, field goals, and safety.

Camp's most important contribution to the game came in 1906, when as head of the American Collegiate Football Rules Committee, forerunner of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), he saved football from extinction as the public reacted against excessive roughness and low scores. Legalization of the forward pass was critical in resolving the crisis. In 1889, he and Casper Whitney selected an All-American football team which continued annually until his death, ironically, in a hotel room while attending a college football rules convention.

Key References:  The American Football Trilogy: The Founding Documents of the Gridiron Game by Walter Camp, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Lorin F. Deland and Henry L. Williams, 2010.


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