The Strangest and Most Little Known Facts of the NFL
The National Football League, NFL, has easily become synonymous with all things American. Alongside good ol’ barbeque and some football, it looks like you have the all-around classic red, white, and blue Sunday. Who doesn’t love some good action-packed football, comfort food, and a good time? Get out your helmets because it’s sure to be a wild ride.
Despite being a die-hard NFL fan, there are some things you still may not know. Some of these facts might even be the strangest you’ve ever heard. We have rounded up some of the most little-known and strangest facts of the NFL for your enjoyment. You can even bring some out at your next football viewing get-together.
1. Until 1990 College Juniors Weren't Draft-Eligible
As things are now, the best players of college football, the rising stars, join the ranks of the professionals after their third school year, and stand-out sophomores can also be among early picks. This was a totally different story before 1990 because to have draft eligibility meant you needed to meet the four-year college minimum requirement. This amendment to the rules gave us Archie Griffin’s win of back-to-back Heisman trophies and numerous dynasties.
Don’t worry though, students can still complete their full four years of studies without pressure, this is protected by the “May 16 Rule.” This rule is in place to help ensure that newly drafted players who haven’t graduated yet can still finish their degree without the pressures to drop out.
2. From Brett Favre to Brett Favre
The first player to catch a pass from Brett Favre was no other than himself. Is there anything more impressive?
The year was 1992 and it was his first year in Green Bay. He made his first pass and it bounced right off the helmet of a Tampa Bay Buccaneer causing a seven-yard loss.
3. NFL Pass After 40
In NFL history the only other player besides Favre to catch a pass after 40, can you guess?
It was no other than Jerry Rice, of course. We might need some rice to dry out our excitement.
4. Super Bowl Victories
The team that holds the NFL record for the most victories in the Super Bowl is Pittsburgh with 6 victories.
Despite this, San Francisco holds the most winnings of the Super Bowl without losing a single one (5-0)
5. New England Patriots or Bay State Patriots
Can you imagine the New England Patriots as any other name besides that one?
Well, they were almost named the Bay State Patriots. When the team moved from Boston to Foxborough the owners said that they needed a name that represented the entire region more accurately.
6. The Actual Football
The ball of the game has become synonymous with the look and feel of the game but what if it was entirely different than the ball we know and love?
It indeed used to be, but who remembers? The football was originally rounder and larger but the league wanted to promote teamwork and the passing of the ball from one another so they changed the shape to make it more pass-friendly throughout the game.
7. Doug Williams vs Denver Broncos
Williams is a football executive and former quarterback and coach. He does it all. He is best known for his time with the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos.
He is the first black quarterback to start as well as win a Super Bowl. He holds as many touchdown passes in the Super Bowl as the entire Denver Broncos.
8. Same State Super Bowl
As of today, no host team has ever played in the Super Bowl.
Although there have been 4 instances where the same state’s team both made it through to play in the Super Bowl. Among these teams are, the Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, and the San Francisco 49ers.
9. NFL On the Fence
In 1987, there was a huge strike in the NFL. The players decided to go on picket lines and since it was during NFL season, the league decided to call in “replacements” for the players.
This contributed to distrust between players and the union and caused even more animosity between them.
10. Offense and Defense Player
The last NFL player to play on both sides of the ball during every play was Chuck Bednarik.
Bednarik achieved this in 1960, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949 to 1962. He was a linebacker on defense and a center on offense.
11. Two Time NFL Integration
During the year 1920, Fritz Pollard of the Akron Pros and Bobby Marshall of the Rock Island Independents were the first African-American players to play in the league.
The league was first integrated in 1904 but it struck a cord in the consciousness of America. In 1933 the NFL segregated completely until the L.A. Rams came on the scene, signing Kenny Washington and Woody Strode to re-integrate the NFL.
12. One Game with 7.0 Sacks
Would you imagine any player achieving 7.0 sacks in one NFL game? That honor goes to Derrick Thomas in a 1990 game against the Seattle Seahawks. The player on the receiving end was the quarterback, Dave Krieg.
This record has held up for 20 seasons and counting. Thomas came close to breaking it in 1998 but maxed out at six against the Oakland Raiders—the same with Osi Umenyiora in a 2007 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
13. Longest Losing Streak Since the AFL-NFL Merger: 26 Games
Despite winning the 2021 Super Bowl with Tom Brady after beating the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold another record. The team leads the teams with the longest losing streak, with 26 games in a row. This unfortunate record was set from 1976 to 1977.
Salary caps and free agency have promoted competition that has kept teams from breaking this record. Back then, things didn’t go quite well for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
14. 153 People Named the Seattle Seahawks
Each of the 32 NFL teams has exciting stories about how their names came to be. However, none seem to be more jaw-breaking than the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle Professional Football Inc. threw the naming privilege to the public when it asked its fans for suggestions in 1975.
The club received over 20,000 suggestions, from which it selected “Seahawks” from 1,741 entries. Only 153 fans mentioned the Seahawks in their suggestions. June 17 remains a historic date for the iconic naming.
15. How Long Can You Wait for Tickets?
Would you imagine waiting 100 years to get your season ticket? The Green Bay Packers will most likely fulfill such a fate, as they have one of the most extended lists for season tickets. In 2019, the list had about 137,000 people on it.
The team often has around 700 pairs of tickets for each season. Fortunately, the season tickets are transferable. So you can transfer them to your family members or loved ones when necessary.
16. Highest Consecutive Road Wins
Getting a road win is challenging enough in the NFL; talk less of getting consecutive wins across two seasons. The San Francisco 49ers were on top of the world when they pulled 18 straight road wins in the 1988 and 1989 seasons. Two consecutive Super Bowl wins in 1989 and 1990 followed this strong feat.
The iconic team was denied a third Super Bowl in 1991. To date, the San Francisco 49ers hold the record for the most road wins.
17. How did the Helmets Come to Be?
What we know as helmets today didn’t become mainstream and compulsory in the NFL until the 1940s. The players before 1943 used moleskin protection on their heads. Then, the NFL introduced the plastic helmet in 1943 to offer better protection and made it compulsory.
Logos weren’t on the helmets until Fred Gehrke painted a horn design on the Los Angeles Rams’ helmets. What began as a way to distinguish a downfield receiver from a defender soon became standard practice.
18. Chicago Bears and the 4,000-yard Passer
The modern NFL age has witnessed high-flying offenses, with eleven players surpassing the 4,000-yard distance in the 2014 season. However, the Chicago Bears have yet to achieve this feat. The closest they’ve been came from Cutler in 2014 and Erik Kramer in 1995.
Cutler eclipsed 3,000 yards in Chicago five times. The Chicago Bears, understandably, have not had a truly elite quarterback since the 1940s. Nonetheless, the Cleveland Browns and other teams that share the same fate have achieved the feat at least once.
19. The New York Jets Jinx with the Philadelphia Eagles
How hard can it be to beat a team in the NFL? The New York Jets have yet to deliver a win against the Philadelphia Eagles despite meeting the team 12 times. In addition, the Philadelphia Eagles have not drawn any matches in their encounter, winning all 12 games.
Both teams had their first match in 1973, after the AFL/NFL merger. Going through 2023 without a win for the New York Jets will make it 50 years without a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles.
20. Injuries Could Not Stop the Youngest Hall of Fame Inductee
Gale Sayers may have only played seven seasons for the Kansas Comets from 1965 to 1971. However, his electrifying performance with the ball on the field earned him a Hall of Fame award in 1977. Injuries were his biggest bane, stopping him from continuing with his impressive performance.
Sayers earned the award at 34 years old after finishing with five first-team All-Pro Nods and four Pro Bowls. He also led the 1966 and 1969 leagues in rushing.
21. The Thanksgiving Day and NFL Tradition
You might appreciate the NFL’s unbreakable relationship with Thanksgiving Day, but that wasn’t always the case. NFL games were not played on Thanksgiving Day before 1934, until the Detroit Lions came along. The team hosted a game on the iconic day and has played on all Thanksgiving days except during World War II.
That move got a boost from the Dallas Cowboys when the team hosted a game that day. This tradition has held to this day.
22. The Only Publicly-owned NFL Team
The Green Bay Packers have remained the only publicly owned franchise in the NFL since 1973. This community ownership model has some striking conditions that will blow your mind. First, the profits are reinvested in the team or sent to charity.
The team also presents its balance sheet annually, something you’d rarely find in other teams or sports. That is remarkable, considering the NFL’s stance on corporate ownership. The body only allows a single or small group of owners.
23. The Day of Endurance: 80 Minutes and Counting into the Game
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins certainly did not envisage a game that would turn into an endurance test. Both teams met on 1971 Christmas Day, moving to play the longest match in NFL history. They battled it out on the field for 82 minutes and 40 seconds.
The Miami Dolphins would later emerge victorious after a stretched game that included two overtime periods. Other matches have come close, but none has yet to break the 80-minute mark.
24. The Players’ Numbers Continue
Some teams may retire numbers in honor of their players, but not all teams in the NFL share this thought. The Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders have maintained their players’ numbers, breaking this age-long tradition. However, their reason for not believing in such honor differs from the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
These three teams have no history, hence their decision to continue players’ numbers. They might join the tradition in the coming years.
25. The Nordstrom Family Once Owned the Seattle Seahawks
The once-proud owners of the upscale department store also had their hands on the Seattle Seahawks. It wasn’t until 1988 that real estate developer Ken Behring bought the majority shares of the team. He later appointed the former head coach for the Los Angeles Raiders, Tom Flores, as the new president.
The Nordstrom family bought the team in 1974. It admitted to never intending to sell the team. Ken Behring’s price probably proved too good to pass.
26. Everyone Gets a Super Bowl Ring
While the players celebrate their Super Bowl victory, the celebration passes on to everyone in the club. The staff, coaches, executives, and practice squad members will go home with the iconic Super Bowl ring. However, those on the practice squad receive rings with a lesser value compared to the players who played the match.
The team owner can award the ring to anyone. This privilege adds spice to the victory, ensuring many people participate besides the players.
27. The TV Broadcast that Started it All for the NFL
The 2023 Super Bowl broke several records as the most-watched match in Super Bowl history (115 million viewers). It also became the most popular TV show in history. Since 2010, the championship has amassed an average of over 106 million viewers.
However, the now-revolutionary NFL only appeared on 500 TV sets in its first televised match. The award for the first televised match in the NFL goes to the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers in October 1939.
28. Breaking the Super Bowl Home Stadium Jinx
Before 2021, no NFL team had the privilege of facing its opponents on home turf for the Super Bowl. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke that record with Tom Brady and also won the match. This decision was the first of many.
The NFL uses several factors to decide the eligibility of a field for the Super Bowl. Things like logistics, weather, and stadium capacity are considered. Let’s not forget how vital the halftime show is.
29. The Brief “Third Place” Stint
You may not see it now, but the NFL once had a “third place” award match that featured runners-up from each NFL conference. This practice lasted for ten years from 1961, as it did not receive much accolades from players and fans. You can call it a loser’s bracket.
The official name for this “third place” match was the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl in honor of the late NFL commissioner. Nonetheless, the game raised over a million dollars for players’ pensions.
30. Six Teams and the 60-point Mark
The NFL has 32 teams across two conferences. However, only six teams have scored above 60 points in a match since the merger. The current record stands at 62 points, set and shared by five modern squads since 1970.
We witnessed this feat when the 2011 Saints beat Indianapolis 62-7, making the team the last to reach the mark. Another would be the 1999 Jaguars, who won the Miami Dolphins in the playoffs by the same score.
31. The NFL Started at a Car Dealership
What we know as the celebrated NFL today began in a car dealership in 1920. Several Professional American Football franchises held the meeting that would eventually birth the NFL at Ralph Hay’s Hupmobile auto showroom in Canton, Ohio. We are glad this meeting was held when it did, as it merged the franchises into a much stronger one.
The NFL had its name two years after this iconic meeting. Before that, people knew it as the American Professional Football Association.
32. The Super Bowl and the Super Ball
Someone always attaches a name to something before it catches on and becomes famous. There wasn’t a worldwide search for the iconic “Super Bowl” name. Instead, the founder of the American Football League and the owner of the Kansas Chiefs, Lamar Hunt, got inspiration from a toy.
He coined the name after watching his children play with Super Ball. His son, Lamar Hunt Jr., gave this startling revelation.