One thing you can do to appreciate this book is to go to your sports friends and ask them who is considered the “Father of American Football” and you will get answers like George Halas or Amos Alonzo Stagg and you might get Jim Thorpe. Those are all wrong because it is not a known entity that Walter Camp has that designation.
In the book, “ Walter Camp and the Celebration of American Football”, we can successfully reach that conclusion. I am not saying that he invented the game but according to this well-researched book by author Roger R. Tamte, he made the game what it is today.
Walter Camp was an only child of a school administrator and a housewife that moved when he was five years old to New Haven. This is located near Yale University which was his college choice when he got older. He loved sports and always intrigue by rugby but he saw a different game that evolved known as football as his favorite. At Yale, he always carried a football with him to class and around town. He was on the smallish side at five foot ten inches in height and only one hundred and sixty pounds but he was a natural athlete and made the varsity squad as a freshman.
He was always concerned about health and welfare because early in his career he knocked a player down and split the guys head open. He thought he had killed him but it was just a football injury. He was such remorse, he asked to be taken out of the game. That remained with him which will lead to adding helmets to the game at a later date.
At the age of 20, Camp was named the captain of the Yale football club. He looked the least like a player when he was with his big, burly teammates that filled out their uniforms with muscles and were the big men on campus. Walter had very little success on the field as a player but became an inventor, sportswriter, adviser, rule maker and a well-known resource on the game of football for the rest of his life.
Not all his moves were deemed successful but he came into contact throughout the nation as he met with college presidents, members of Congress and even the President of the United States on matters of football.
Before Walter Camp died in 1925, he saw the game evolve to players with more speed, size, and agility than in previous years. He has stated that he believes his greatest success was making a rule change and fighting for the inclusive of the four downs per 10 yards rule that still stands today. It is said that Camp was the first to come up with the concept of the snap, the line of scrimmage and basic formations to enhance the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He made positions on the field such as tackle, guard, fullback, halfback, and quarterback. The game we see today, the American version of football, is uniquely influenced by Walter Camp. He truly is the “Father of American Football”.
It is of interest that in the year that Walter Camp died, Red Grange, a college football star from the University of Illinois, skipped his senior season and went to play professional football. This would likely be known as the modern era of football.
Author Roger R. Tamte put together a well-researched book about the life of Walter Camp and his far-reaching effect he had on the American football that thousands and millions watch during the fall months in the United States.
Sports fans should read this book. It is full of stories of success and failures of a man that from a young age until his death has a grip on the game of football and influenced the game to a great degree today. This book should be on your bookshelf.
I would like to thank the University of Illinois Press for sending this copy to me in exchange for a fair and honest book review.
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