A journey of 100 seasons began with a single step.
For the NFL, that step was made by Ralph Hay, owner of the Canton Bulldogs. Hay invited owners of three other Ohio teams — the Dayton Triangles, Cleveland Indians and Akron Pros — to a meeting at his Canton auto showroom to discuss forming a league. Three issues prompted the meeting: Dramatically rising salaries, players jumping from one team to another following the highest offers, and teams illegally using players that were still in college. That initial meeting led to the foundation of the league, originally called the American Professional Football Association, on August 20, 1920.
A second meeting was scheduled on Sept. 17, 1920. This time, Hay invited several other pro teams. Perhaps the most significant attendee was future Pro Football Hall of Famer George Halas, the player-coach of the Decatur Staleys, the team that would eventually become the Chicago Bears. At that meeting in Hay's showroom, Halas sat on the running board of a new Hupmobile and, for the first of many important instances, modeled a league-above-team perspective that shaped the new organization 100 years ago.
The NFL embarks on its 100th season when the Atlanta Falcons meet the Denver Broncos in Canton's Tom Benson Stadium for this year's Hall of Fame Game. The 100th regular season kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 5, when the Bears host the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Chicago is the only team that will mark its 100th anniversary this season.
"Our goal is to make this the most meaningful and memorable season in league history," said Executive Vice President, Club Business & League Events Peter O'Reilly. "We will do that by paying tribute to our great players — past and present — our coaches, our teams and our fans, while also looking ahead to the next century of the NFL. Every week new content and initiatives will roll out that we are excited to share with everyone who loves this game."
Central to those plans are "Fantennials." During the 2019 season, each team will host a “Fantennial Weekend” — a three-day celebration of football. The homecoming-style weekend will include a high-school game on a Friday night attended by Legends from the local NFL team, a fan festival on Saturday and, its home game to close the multi-day extravaganza. At that home game, high-school players will take part in the coin toss, the greatest moment in club history will be revealed, and the team’s Legends will be recognized and honored.
Learn more about NFL100 celebrations.