Which individual has rushed for most yards in a single National Football League?

For readers unfamiliar with the nitty-gritty of gridiron football, ‘rushing yards’ is a metric calculated by adding up the number of yards a player gains, or loses, when carrying the ball, without first catching a forward pass. If a player does catch a forward pass, any yardage gained, or lost, relative to the line of scrimmage – including the distance the ball travels in the air – is attributed to that player as ‘receiving yards’.

Anyway, in the history of the National Football League (NFL), which celebrated its centenary in 2019, the player who holds the record for the most yards gained rushing in a single game is former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Now 38 and, since January 17, 2022, a free agent, Peterson was playing just the eighth game of his professional career when, on November 4, 2007, he set the single-game rushing record against the San Diego Chargers at the now-demolished Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

On that occasion, Peterson made 30 carries, for a total of 296 yards – equivalent to the length of two and a quarter football fields – and scored three touchdowns. In the second half alone, he gained 253 yards and scored two touchdowns, thereby carrying the Vikings to a 35-17 victory, after they had trailed 14-7 at half-time. In so doing, he beat the previous record, 295 yards, set by Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis in a 33-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns at the Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio on September 14, 2003.

As a slightly bizarre footnote, on September 10, 2022, Peterson fought an exhibition boxing match, scheduled for five rounds, against former Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Bell won, by technical knockout, in the final round.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the winner of what?

Newly cast, chased and polished each year by the silversmiths at Tiffany & Co., the Vince Lombardi Trophy is almost certainly recognisable to aficionados of American football, even if its name is less familiar. The Vince Lombardi Trophy is, of course, awarded to the winners of the championship game of the National Football League (NFL), otherwise known as the Super Bowl.

The trophy is named in honour of Vincent Thomas ‘Vince’ Lombardi, a celebrated head coach best known for leading the Green Bay Packers to victory in the first two American Football League (AFL) – National Football League (NFL) World Championship Games at the conclusion of the 1966 and 1967 seasons; those games would later be recognised, retrospectively, as Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II. On March 3, 1969, Lombardi appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, having been hired as head coach to Washington Redskins. However, on June 24, 1970, he was diagnosed with a rare, highly aggressive colorectal cancer, known as anaplastic carcinoma, and died on September 3, aged 57.

The existing Super Bowl trophy, which originally bore the legend, ‘World Professional Football Championship’, was renamed in his memory and first presented, in its new guise, to the Baltimore Colts following Super Bowl V at the Miami Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida on January 17, 1971. The presentation of an new trophy was fitting insofar as Super Bowl V was the first championship game played since the AFL and NFL merged to form a single league with two conferences, ahead of the 1970 season, or effectively the first of the ‘modern era’.

When did helmets become compulsory in the National Football League (NFL)?

The sport of American, or gridiron, football originated at universities in the United States and Canada in the late nineteenth century. Protective headgear, albeit rudimentary, and optional, in the early days, has been a feature of the sport more or less ever since.

The first ‘helmets’ were open-faced skull caps, made from a soft material, such as leather or moleskin and, consequently, offered little or no protection against facial injuries. In the Twenties and Thirties, hardened leather helmets with additional padding became on option but, even so, a face bar or face mask would not be introduced until decades later, long after the advent of plastic helmets.

The first plastic football helmet, complete with a suspension system designed to withstand repeated hits, was invented by John T. Riddel in 1939. The introduction of the plastic helmet was hampered (i) by the scarcity of raw materials during World War II and (ii) by a production fault that led them to be banned by the NFL. However, the latter problem was quickly rectified, such that, by the end of the Forties, strong, durable plastic helmets were a matter of course in the NFL.

The National Football League (NFL) was founded in 1920, as the American Professional Football Association, but helmets – which became compulsory in college football in 1939 – remained optional until 1943. However, the last player to play without a helmet was Chicago Bears’ running back Herbert ‘Dick’ Plasman; he did so in the 1940 NFL Championship Game against the Washington Redskins on December 8, 1940, which the Bears won 73-0. Apparently, Plasman felt more comfortable playing bare-headed, although he was later found to have a deep indentation in his left temple, caused by running into the outfield wall at Wrigley Field.