By Tres York
Nov. 6, 1869, was a monumental day in the history of college sports.
With football season well underway, we look back at that fall afternoon when Princeton University and Rutgers University clashed in the first college football game to be played in the U.S. Rutgers won the historic battle 6-4.
A century and a half later, college football is as popular as ever. More than 81,000 players across 897 colleges and universities play college football every year, with tens of millions of enthusiastic fans cheering them on all over the country.
Many state legislators across the U.S. played college football and bring the lessons they learned to their jobs as lawmakers.
Speaker of the Nevada Assembly Jason Frierson (D) played running back for the University of Nevada, Reno and helped the Wolf Pack win the NCAA Division 1-AA national championship over Boise State in 1990. He reflected on what his playing days taught him about leadership and building relationships.
“Growing up in Compton, Calif., sports was perceived as the only way out of the cycle of poverty,” he said. “In many ways, football represented the birth of my leadership experience and allowed me to learn in an intense environment how much more effective a team can be when united, despite individual differences.
“I think I enjoyed most the experience of reaping the rewards of complete dedication to a common cause, not only leading to a win, but leading to a collective victory.”
To celebrate the 150th anniversary, more than 800 schools are sporting new logos on their uniforms and Oct. 31 through Nov. 9 is commemorated as College Football 150 (CFB150) Anniversary Week.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R), who came to Iowa State as a walk-on and worked his way into a scholarship and a starting spot at wide receiver for the Cyclones, believes his experience playing college football taught him skills that he could only have fully achieved playing the sport.
“Football has taught me more about life than anything else I’ve ever done, because it truly teaches you the importance of teamwork, of hard work, and how to overcome adversity. It’s been so important to me because these are not things you can read in a book and learn, you have to learn them through experience,” he said.
“Those skills are developed over time, and my career playing college football was the perfect catalyst for me. I use those same lessons now as a legislator, where it’s critically important to bring people together as a team, fight hard to overcome challenges, and work hard for the people you represent.”
As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first college football game, we recognize that the hard work, perseverance, and teamwork learned on the football field is being translated into leadership skills outside of stadiums.
Tres York is a policy specialist on NCSL’s Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce Committee.