Athol Daily News – A Page from North Quabbin History: Alf Cobb’s career in pro football

Karla Charter

Before there was the National Football League, there was the American Professional Football Association (APFA). Among those who played for APFA was Alf Cobb, who was born in Atholl.

Cobb played football long before he joined the APFA. All-American at Waltham High School, from which he graduated, and Syracuse University, where he became a tackle and was recognized with first-team honors by the International News Service, the News Enterprise Association. Colliers Weekly.

“APFA was born when multiple team owners decided they needed rules governing what had become a very loose collection of teams that benefited from more structure. It wasn’t as popular as it is today, according to Rich Desrosiers, Chief Communications and Content Officer of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, professional football followed baseball and college football until the 1950s.

Desrosier said that among the teams Cobb played in the APFA was the Akron Pros, formed as a fully professional team in 1908, long before the APFA existed in 1920. Pro changed the name to the Akron Indians in 1923 and existed until 1926, he said. Cobb played for the team from 1920 to 1921, in championship years. The Akron Pros were declared champions based on his league-best 8-0-3 record.

“Before 1933, champions were determined by the percentage of games they played.

Cobb’s coach at Akron in 1920 was Elgie Tobin and in 1921 Fritz Pollard. Pollard said he was the first African-American to play in the APFA, and in 1922 he was the first African-American coach in the NFL. Cobb also played for Cleveland’s Cap He Edwards in 1925. bulldog.

“Cobb probably played for Pollard in one game when Cobb played Akron in 1921,” said Desrosiers. “That was the year Pollard became a player-manager.

“The players on the winning team were presented with gold watches. One of the 1920 Akron Pros is part of the Hall of Fame Museum collection. The trophy was lost over time after being awarded to league champions for several years,” he continued.

APFA became the NFL in 1922. The organization wanted to incorporate the word “national” into its name to denote status, and the word “league” was seen as more solid than “association”. The first “championship” game was played in 1932 between the Portsmouth Spartans and the Chicago Bears in a tie. It was considered a one-game playoff to determine the league winner. (Chicago he won 9-0),” said Desrosiers.

In 1933, the National Football League set up a two-division team structure, with the division champions playing for the title. The first championship game was played in 1933 when the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The game of football itself began in the late 1860s. In the early days of the game, the rules varied. “The game was similar to rugby. Some teams played 15 players at a time, but over time that number dropped to 11. There was little protective gear, mostly long-sleeved sweaters, It consisted of shoes with cleats, canvas pants with minimal padding (if any),” says Desrosiers.

For more information on the Pro Football Hall of Fame, please visit

Carla Charter is a freelance writer for Phillipston. Her writing focuses on the history of the North Kabin region. Please contact her at

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