Way back in 1905 the sport of football was in trouble . . . big trouble. No, there wasn't a National Football League then, but the sport had become increasingly popular at the college level. For example, Harvard University, then considered a football powerhouse, had built a 22,000 seat stadium in 1903 so more fans could come see their games. There was one problem. Football then didn't resemble the game we know today. It was closer to rugby. With a ball that looked like a watermelon there were no forward passes, only short laterals resulting in huge pileups with players doing everything in their power to get the ball.
The result was a brutal game marked by uncontrolled mayhem that was causing many severe injuries and deaths. In 1905, there were 18 fatalities directly related to football and at least 150 injuries. The Washington Post back then wrote that between 1900 and October of 1905, some 45 players died from football-related injuries. They attributed the deaths to a combination of internal injuries, broken necks, concussions and broken backs. But perhaps the straw that really broke the gridiron's back was the November death of a Union College halfback named Harold Moore, who died of a cerebral hemorrhage after being kicked in the head while trying to make a tackle in a game against New York University. Mass formations such as the flying wedge also contributed to the rash of injuries.