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Walter Camp: The Father of American Football

Readmikenow likes sports, both professional and amateur. He especially likes sports stories of courage and overcoming adversity.

Walter Camp

Walter Camp

About Walter Camp

Walter Camp is recognized as one of American football's most accomplished people. He played and coached football at Yale College. Camp coached at Yale in 1888, 1891, and 1892; the teams from these years have been accepted as national champions. In 1951, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Each year he would publish the All American college football team. Before he passed away, Camp had written over 249 magazine articles and approximately 30 books about the game of football.

Early Life

Walter Camp was born on April 7, 1859, in New Britain, Connecticut. His mother's name was Ellen Sophia Cornell. His father's name was Leverett Camp. English colonist Nicholas Camp, who came to New England in 1630, was his first immigrant ancestor. Camp went to Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1875, he started at Yale College and graduated in 1880. From 1880 to 1883, Camp attended Yale Medical School. He had to stop because there was an outbreak of typhoid fever at the school. Camp then started working for the Manhattan Watch Company starting in 1883. Before he left the company, Camp became chairman of the Manhattan Watch Company's board of directors.


Camp married Alice Graham Summer on June 30, 1888. They had two children named Janet and Walter Camp, Jr.

Mob Football

The early days of football in the United States had rules that were a hodgepodge of rugby and soccer. It consisted of a large number of players working to move a ball into a goal. The violence of the game often resulted in many players being injured. Walter Camp played under Rudy Union rules. He was determined to improve the game of football to make it safer and uniquely American.

Walter Camp as player at Yale

Walter Camp as player at Yale

Player and Coach

When Camp was at Yale, he played halfback from 1876 to 1882. From 1888 to 1892, he was the head football coach at Yale. During this time, the Yale college football team Camp coached won 67 games and only lost 2 games. Starting in 1892, Camp moved to California to become the coach of Stanford University's football team. The first intercollegiate college football game took place between Camp's Stanford team and the University of Chicago's team coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg. The University of Chicago won the game 24-4.

American Football rules by Walter Camp

American Football rules by Walter Camp

Development of American Football

Walter Camp was very dedicated when it came to being part of the many collegiate football rules committees. These organizations are believed to have developed the game of American football. Camp served on these committees as a player as well as a coach. He was determined to make American football as different from English rugby as possible.

Camp suggested the development of a line of scrimmage where a team could start an uncontested possession. He also is responsible for the creation of a system of downs, snap-back from center, American football's point system as well as the arrangement of players on the field. Camp introduced the “safety” play. This makes it possible for a team to get two points for tackling a player holding the ball in their own end zone. To resume play after a safety, a free kick is done by the offense team from its own 20-yard line. He is responsible for cutting the number of players on the field from 15 to 11 as well as creating the quarterback position, offensive play-calling, field goal, point after touchdown, and downs system. Camp also had the idea of putting measuring lines on the field. He was also able to eliminate many of the dangerous mass plays that caused players to experience serious injury and sometimes death. This included the flying wedge and more.

Pamphlet about dirty dozen exercises

Pamphlet about dirty dozen exercises

Development of Dirty Dozen Exercises

Camp strongly believed in exercise. He felt this was something that should be done by more than just the athletes he coached. During World War I, Camp worked as an adviser to the U.S. Military. During this time, he created a program designed to help those in the military to be more physically fit. The exercise regimen was designed to give a person a good start to engaging in serious work. It involved twelve simple exercises and became known as the “daily dozen set-up.” The names of the exercises involved with the daily dozen were called hands, wing, grind, crouch, wave, grasp, crawl, hips, head, weave, curl, and grate. All of these exercises were designed to be completed within eight minutes.


Walter Chauncey Camp died on March 14, 1925, in New York City. He was 65 years old. Camp's cause of death was a heart attack. It occurred during a 1925 meeting of the American football rules committee.

Walter Camp monument at Yale University

Walter Camp monument at Yale University


Shortly after Camp died, people gave donations to build him a lasting monument. It is located on Derby Avenue in New Haven at the entrance of the Yale Bowl. Over 223 colleges and more than 228 high schools provided the necessary funding for the Walter Camp Memorial Gateway. It was dedicated on November 3, 1928. All the schools that contributed to its funding are engraved on a bronze plaque located on the gateway.

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Walter Camp player of the year award

Walter Camp player of the year award

Walter Camp Player of the Year Award

This is an annual award given to the collegiate American football player of the year. The winning player is decided by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1, head coaches as well as sports information directors.

Walter Camp postage stamp

Walter Camp postage stamp

Postage Stamp

A U.S. Postage stamp designed to honor Walter Camp was unveiled at the Omni Hotel at Yale on February 7, 2003.




New England Historical Society


© 2020 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on September 10, 2020:

Liz, thanks. I agree.

Liz Westwood from UK on September 10, 2020:

It's interesting to read about such a sporting legend.

Readmikenow (author) on September 10, 2020:

Vladimir, thanks.

Vladimir from Moscow on September 10, 2020:

very informative

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 10, 2020:

Yes this is a good history lesson

Readmikenow (author) on September 10, 2020:

Cheryl, thanks. Yeah, I found it interesting how American football became uniquely American.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 09, 2020:

Thank you I never knew

Readmikenow (author) on September 09, 2020:

Fran, thanks. I found his life fascinating.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on September 09, 2020:

Great article! I did a similar article 5/2019 for Hubpages so I'm familiar with him. Guess we think alike!

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