TRIVIAL PURSUITS: First Professional Football Player

August 20, 2013 - The American Professional Football Conference (APFC), the forerunner to the National Football League, was created in 1920.

Although the APFC is considered the first professional football conference, the birth of professional football it said to have occurred November 12, 1892. It was the day that the Allegheny Athletic Association football team defeated the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. One of the AAA players, William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, was openly paid $500 to play the game.

Absolute verification did not become public for almost 80 years until the Pro Football Hall of Fame received and displayed a document—an expense accounting sheet of the Allegheny Athletic Association that clearly shows a “game performance bonus to W. Heffelfinger for playing (cash) $500.”

While it is possible others were paid to play before 1892, the AAA expense sheet provides the first irrefutable evidence of an out-and-out cash payment. It is appropriately referred to today as “pro football’s birth certificate.”

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