War Football: World War I and the Birth of the NFL

Chris Serb, MSJ95

Serb’s new book “War Football” is about the military origins of professional football, through the network of army, navy, and marine training bases that sponsored the sport during World War I as both a training tool and a diversion for trainees during their hours of liberty. In the process, so-called “war football” created the first true all-star teams in the sport; raised millions of dollars for the war effort; and broke down longstanding barriers to professionalism, all while featuring top-flight, high-quality football. Within two years of the Armistice the NFL was born, featuring more than 240 War Football veterans (including 7 Hall of Famers, one of whom, Paddy Driscoll, played college football at Northwestern) as professional football pioneers.