Jamestown Evening Journal

Parke H. Davis Writes on Forward Pass in Football

Would you think it possible for a man to be so ingenious as to be the inventor of the forward pass, to incorporate the spectacular play in the football rules, and then to be so modest, so free from pride and vanity, and so forgetful of his great achievement as not to be conscious of the fact that he was the father of the forward pass until confronted by the records twenty years, after he had put the forward pass in football? Well, such to the fact. The great football man who performed for the sport this transcendental achievement learned for first time of his pioneering at the recent Navy - Princeton game. Here is the story of the origin of the forward pass.

In 1905 the sport of football was subjected by its enemies to the fiercest onslaught in the annals of the game. Theodore Roosevelt then president of the United States summoned to the White House the captains of the Princeton Harvard and Yale and demanded that they load in a reform. The Rules Committee promptly met and began to overhaul the existing game. Among the many innovations suggested and finally introduced into the report at that time was the radically revolutionary forward pass.

The writer of this story then as now was accustomed methodically to keep the records of the sport. Among the memoranda which he made at the time were the suggestions for reform submitted by each member of the Rules Committee of 1905.

We now move forward twenty years. It is between the halves of the Navy-Princeton, October 9, 1826. Sauntering along the sidelines was Paul Dashiell, famous as a half-back thirty-eight years ago at Johns Hopkins and afterwards at Lehigh, later the first and most famous of the modern school of expert officials, later still and for twenty years a member of the Football Rules Committee, and for a correspondingly long time ablest of coaches and wisest of counsellors at the United States Naval Academy. "Paul," said the writer, "it must be profoundly gratifying to you to realize that among the many fine things you have done for collegiate football you gave the game the forward pass."

"But," he replied, "I was not aware that I was its inventor."

"Well, you are," said the writer. "Here is the record of suggestions made by you and your fellow members of the Rules Committee in December, 1905. "Minutes of a session of the Rules Committee held in Philadelphia, Dec. 9, 1906. Present: Bell of Pennsylvania; Camp of Yale; Fine of Princeton; Dashiell of the Navy; Stagg of Chicago.

"The members offered suggestions for the reform of the game as follows:

"By Mr. Camp: make 10 yards to gain; increase the penalties for roughness; establish a central board on officials; improve the quality of officials; prohibit hurdling and low tackling.

“By Mr. Bell: make 10 yards to be gained; establish a tribunal on officials; limit substitutions; limit positions of players on offence.

"By Mr. Fine: Increase the distance to be gained to 10 yards; weaken the defence; modify the present form of tackling; provide two umpires.

"By Mr. Dashiell: Make 8 yards to gain; provide two umpires; after disqualification make offending team play ten minutes with only ten men; keep seven men on the line on offence; keep backs on offence at least two yards back of the line; permit the ball to be passed forward.


The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.

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