This year marks a very special anniversary for the NFL – its 100th season. In honor of the milestone, the League has launched NFL100, a campaign dedicated to celebrating the seasons by paying tribute to the past and looking forward to the future.
One of the ways the NFL will recognize its rich history, is by highlighting its 13 “Original Towns” – two of which happen to be in Western New York. Both Buffalo and Rochester were home to football teams during the League’s early stages. The Buffalo All-Americans played in the League from 1920-29 and the Rochester Jeffersons, or the “Jeffs” as they were commonly referred to at the time, operated from 1920-25. However, the history of these two teams precedes their time in the NFL.
In 1900, when Buffalo – the country’s eighth biggest city at the time – was booming, there was also a growing interest in football. Residents began to form organized leagues and by 1918 had a Semi-Pro Football League made up for four teams. A year later, the “Buffalo Prospects” –previously the “Niagaras” – finished with a 9-1-1 record. Coached by Welsey Abbott, the Prospects would go on to win the New York State Championship.
After the 1919 season, the Prospects were renamed the “All-Americans” and by 1920, Buffalo had joined a new league called the “American Professional Football Association” (APFA). The APFA would also receive a name change in 1922, becoming the National Football League. Playing their home games at Canisius College Villa, or the Buffalo Baseball Park, the All-Americans sported black, orange and white uniforms.
The Jeffs were also one of the American Professional Football Association’s charter members and like the All-Americans, the team joined the League in 1920. Prior to the team’s stint in the AFPA, the Jeffs – pioneered by player-manager Leo Lyons – was one of the city’s many “sandlot” squads. Formed in 1908, the Jeffs wore red and white uniforms and drew in mostly local talent. The Jeffs played their games at Bay Street Park and Edgerton Park.
Rochester and eight other “Original Towns,” outside of the current 32 NFL cities, including, Akron, Ohio; Canton, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Hammond, Indiana; Muncie, Indiana; and Rock Island, Illinois, will be recognized for their contributions to the game during the 2019 NFL Draft.
“There’s no better way to bring the League’s hundred years of history full circle than to partner with these communities and recognize their important place in history as part of the NFL’s centennial celebration,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Celebrations in these towns will take place on Saturday, April 28, on Draft Day 3, when NFL teams make their picks live from special locations. The Bills will be broadcasting from the popular Corn Hill district in Rochester. Buffalo will be on-site making selections for the fourth and fifth rounds and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren will also have a chance to share in the fun in the sixth round.