The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
Super Bowl winners in recent years have been identified by the gaudy, diamond-studded rings given to the victors. There were no garish pieces of jewelry for the Akron Pros. The first champions of the NFL (then known as the American Professional Football Association) instead received a gold fob, shaped like a football.
The first NFL championship game didn’t arrive until 1933, so the first 13 NFL champions were awarded based on record. No official league standings were maintained in 1920, but the Pros were given the title, with an 8-0-3 record, at a league meeting on April 30, 1921. The decision was protested by the Decatur Staleys (10-1-2) and Buffalo All-Americans (9-1-1), who both played the Pros to scoreless ties.
The star running back of the Pros was Brown graduate Fritz Pollard, who would become the first African-American coach the following season and would continue playing until 1926. He was one of several African-American players in the NFL’s first decade, but by the 1934 season there were none—the league would be segregated from ’34 until 1946.
—Greg A. Bedard
Special thanks to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for facilitating the photograph at the top of this story.