Little Bits of History

Going Pro

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 3, 2014
John Brallier

John Brallier in uniform

September 3, 1895: John Brallier becomes the first professional American football player. The Latrobe Athletic Association in Latrobe, Pennsylvania had their schedule set when disaster struck. The YMCA club was formed with Russell Aukerman as player-coach (he had been a halfback at Gettysburg College previously) and with David Berry (local newspaper editor and publisher) as the team’s manager. Their quarterback, Eddie Blair, also played baseball in Greensburg. The opening season game was scheduled for this day and Blair discovered he had a prior commitment to play baseball. Berry was left trying to replace the quarterback for the game scheduled against the Jeannette Athletic Club.

Berry learned of a quarterback in Indiana and contacted him. Brallier was playing for Indiana Normal but was set to start playing for Washington & Jefferson College in just a few weeks. He was offered expenses to get to Pennsylvania but was still hesitant. Berry sweetened the deal. He would pay Brallier $10 plus expenses and give him opportunities to play more games in the future. Brallier accepted and became the first openly paid football player. The new professional arrived the night before the game and practiced with the team. While his status of first professional football player was hailed over his lifetime, it was found out after his death that William Heffelfinger of the Allegheny Athletic Association actually took money to play prior to Brallier, but on the sly.

The first game of the Latrobe 1895 season was played on this day, a Tuesday. Before the game, a parade formed and traveled down Ligonier Street, a newly paved thoroughfare. Leading the parade was Billy Showalter’s Cornet Band and then followed both the Latrobe and Jeannette teams dressed in their full uniforms. Stores were closed and the mines declared a half-day holiday so locals could watch their maroon and orange clad team play. The game began at 4 PM. Latrobe trounced the opposition. Auckerman made two touchdowns which were worth four points each at the time Brallier kicked two extra points which were each worth two points at the time. The final score was 12-0.

Brallier played for Latrobe once more, on September 14. Not quite as spectacularly since on that day, Latrobe lost with a score of 7-0. Latrobe’s season had them playing 11 games and their first season record was 7-4. Brallier left for Washington & Jefferson where he was their varsity quarterback. His first game there was a spectacular 32-0 win. Late in the season, Brallier was injured which didn’t stop six colleges from offering him a spot on their teams the following year. Eventually, after serving in the US Army during the Spanish American War, he returned to college play and after wending his way through several options, returned to Latrobe as a player-coach in 1902. His life outside of football found him practicing dentistry as well as serving for twenty years as a school director. He died in 1960 at the age of 83, the last surviving member of the Latrobe team. He was finally elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

The game of life is a lot like football. You have to tackle your problems, block your fears, and score your points when you get the opportunity. – Lewis Grizzard

Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority. – Vince Lombardi

Don’t walk through life just playing football. Don’t walk through life just being an athlete. Athletics will fade. Character and integrity and really making an impact on someone’s life, that’s the ultimate vision, that’s the ultimate goal – bottom line. – Ray Lewis

There’s two times of year for me: Football season, and waiting for football season. – Darius Rucker

Also on this day: Terror at Beslan School – In 2004, the Beslan School takeover comes to a bloody end.
Left; Right – In 1967, Sweden switched which side of the street they would drive on.
Republic – In 310, San Marino was founded.
Poetry – In 1802, William Wordsworth wrote a poem.

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