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NFL Turns 100

Happy 100th Birthday to the NFL in 2019

The American Professional Football Association began in 1920 and renamed itself the National Football League in 1920. And that league went on for decades until an upstart AFL (American Football League) challenged the NFL.

Oil tycoons Bud Adams Jr. and Lamar Hunt were refused entry into the NFL in 1959 and so they banded together to form the AFL with the likes of Harry Wismer and Ralph Wilson Jr. and a host of others. Next thing you know, a merger was formed in 1966 and the full intact NFL in 1970. Now we have, of course, AFC and NFC as time and changes have marched on.

So through the years we have had dynasties and Hall of Famers and big names and coaches and evolution. Let’s have some fun with N-F-L. Here is a fun “by the letter” celebrating 100 years of pro football (yes, there are names left out because, well, there are simply too many).

N-oll. Four-time Super Bowl winner for the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty. Noll changed the culture in the Steel City and helped put the team together and is just as important for this dynasty as any head coach to theirs in league history.

A-llen. As in George, one of the most underrated NFL head coaches ever and Marcus, the incredible running back for the Raiders and Chiefs.

T-O. As in Terrell Owens. Arguably the most talented player in league history who was also the biggest handful. He played for five teams for a reason.

I-in team? There is none. And football is the ultimate team game and this has been used since forever.

O-rlando Pace. Cool name. Terrific offensive lineman (Rams-Bears). 2016 Hall of Famer.

N-ew England Patriots. The most recent great dynasty in league history behind Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Nine AFC titles and Six Super Bowl crowns under them. And still going.

A-nderson. As in Morten Anderson. Gotta give love to a kicker. Second best of all-time right behind Adam Vinatieri.

L-ombardi. The greatest coach of all-time and the trophy named after him for the Super Bowl winner. Many people say Bill Belichick is the GOAT and rightfully so. Lombardi is for this writer. He developed the Green Bay franchise, won multiple NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls and is etched in time. Plus, he didn’t have SpyGate (that we know of).

F-ranco Harris. 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game. Three Rivers Stadium. The Hall of Fame running back caught a tip toed football off of a helmet and rumbled in for the score. It’s arguably the most famous play in NFL history.

O-tto Graham. Easily a Cleveland Browns Mount Rushmore member and staple QB of the NFL’s early days of the 1940’s and 50’s. Three-time NFL champ. He could run it and throw it. A dominating player. How dominant? His Cleveland Browns played in the league championship game every season from 1946-55.

O-J Simpson. The greatest fall in league history. Heisman winner. Hall of Famer. First 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history (1973). Beloved Buffalo Bill. Fantastic broadcaster. You know the rest.

T-om Landry. The legendary head coach of the Dallas Cowboys with the famous hat and classy persona. He is an NFL Films face for the ages. He won two Super Bowls. The star on the helmet was represented by Landry for years, the original head coach of America’s Team.

B-arry Sanders. There has never been a player before or since who was as elite with less to work with. Sanders, who retired slightly early, played for the most part on horrific Detroit Lions teams and behind awful offensive lines. He always deserved better.

A-FL. Noted above. Without the AFL and The Foolish Club,* we don’t have what we have today. You could argue that because the NFL has gotten so big, that The Foolish Club is the most innovative and important group in the history of sports. Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson as individuals, sure, but as a group, nothing tops The Foolish Club. Not even they could have imagined what the NFL would become.

L-amar Hunt. The legendary owner of the Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs and member of The Foolish Club. Hall of Famer in 1972. Super Bowl IV winner. Oh, and he came up with the name “Super Bowl” from his son bouncing a “Super Ball” off the wall and mentioned it in a league meeting in how to name this grand championship tilt. The guy was a genius.

L-evy. Marv Levy. Helped orchestrate four straight trips to the Super Bowl as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. One of the truly great guys in sports. “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?” Levy just turned 94 on August 3.

L-ewis. Ray Lewis. One of the most intimidating players in league history. Two-time Super Bowl champ. Super Bowl MVP. Two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Lewis made offensive coordinators have nightmares in game-planning for him.

E-mmitt Smith and Earl Campbell. Two awesome running backs with E’s.

A-FC. American Football Conference. The winner is awarded the Lamar Hunt Trophy annually.

G-eorge Halas. Legendary Chicago Bears owner and head coach who was ahead of his time. One of the NFL’s co-founders. Instrumental in our game today. Eight-time NFL champion. He even played while coaching and sold tickets!

U-nitas. Peyton Manning before Peyton Manning. Johnny Unitas is on the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks for his incredible mind and calling plays in the huddle. Three-time NFL champ and Super Bowl V winner. Helped put the league and sport on the map in the 1958 NFL title game against the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.

E-rnie Davis. The one guy who was as sure a thing as anyone and would have been a legend and Hall of Famer. Football fans never saw the 1961 Heisman Trophy winner out of Syracuse fully as he died too young of leukemia.

Mike Lindsley has been in sports media for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports and download his podcast the ML Sports Platter on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

*The Foolish Club were the owners of the eight original franchises of the American Football League (AFL).

Mike Lindsley
Follow Mike Lindsley on Twitter @MikeLSports and download his podcast the “ML Sports Platter” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify.