ROCK ISLAND, Illinois – The sixth round of the NFL Draft took place in Rock Island at Augustana College. But the reason why Rock Island was chosen to hold this round has a lot to do with the city’s football history.
Saturday, was a game of football stripped all the way down to its roots.
“It’s a snap back in time,” comments Chris Zimmerman, Rock Island historian and a player in Saturday’s vintage game.
“The first game that took place September of 1920 was actually played here in Rock Island,” says Zimmerman.
That was the first NFL game between the Saint Paul Ideals and the Rock Island Independents.
“No padding, no shoulder pad, no knee pad, nothing,” says player Roy Sye, NFL historian. “It was kind of a wild game back then.”
Saturday, players took the field at Augustana’s Lindberg Stadium. It was a throwback, equipment and all, to that first game almost one hundred years ago. The football the size of a small melon.
But it’s not just the vintage uniforms or the leather helmets that make this game historic.
“Some of the players on our team are actually descendants of some of the players,” Sye says.
Mike Engholm has a personal connection to this game, which is why he decided to play for his fifth year in a row.
“My grandfather played back in the 1920’s,” comments Engholm. “I never knew my grandfather, but this is a good way to learn what he did.”
For some, the game is about their relatives, while others it’s honoring football legends.
“There’s players like George Halas from the Bears, Curly Lambeau, Jim Thorpe, Duke Slater, “Nips” Murphy, there’s a lot of good players who played football, started their careers, all became legends really playing in Douglas Park in Rock Island,” Zimmerman explains.
“I mean you have high school football, you have college football, and you have NFL history all in the same city,” says Zimmerman.