15 Surprising Facts About the NFL

Posted Apr 24, by Greg Porter

Many people would look at that statistic and think there’s no way any person could blow through hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars in a matter of two years, yet professional athletes consistently fall victim to the same fate: bankruptcy. It’s not just football players either, it’s all sports. 

Just a few renowned athletes who went broke are Terrell Owens, Mike Tyson, Dorothy Hamill, and Allen Iverson! 60% of NBA players have no money within five years of retirement and for some reason the trend is getting worse. Why? There are several reasons. It’s unnatural to receive such large sums of money that professional athletes do in their early 20’s, and many never think of a time when the money will stop coming. 

Unfortunately, many of them are ousted from the sports world much sooner than they expect. The average football career only lasts around three and a half years, and many of the huge signing incomes that are promised are not paid. Another reason is the sense of entitlement many athletes seem to have. 

After being held on a pedestal as near immortals, athletes face a harsh reality when they stop playing and realize they are subject to the same rules as everyone else. Many also develop gambling, alcohol, or drug addictions because they have so much money and end up flat broke in their mid-20’s!


The interesting thing is that they're not just cheerleaders that are now sponsored to get people interested in science, but most of them are scientists themselves. The founder, Darlene Cavalier, for example, was a cheerleader for the 76ers, and she holds a Master's degree from UPenn. 

She started the Science Cheerleader blog in 2006, and the group kept growing and now includes women from at leasat 18 professional teams. They have degrees in things like Biology, Mathematics, Engineering, Chemistry. They want to show that there are groups underrepresented in the science and technology fields and they want to connect with them and get them into science.


The longest field goal in NFL history was kicked by a man who had only half a foot!

On November 8, 1970, an unlikely hero booted an unlikely field goal to propel his team to an unlikely victory. That man’s name was Tom Dempsey, a 22-year-old kicker for the New Orleans Saints who was born without four fingers on his right hand and half of his right foot. The stage was set for Dempsey’s dramatic kick shortly after his counterpart for the opposing Detroit Lions had made an 18-yarder to give his team a 17-16 lead with 11 seconds left in the game. The ensuing kickoff return and a short reception by Al Dodd left New Orleans with little hope of victory. Now with only 2 seconds remaining, Tom found himself trotting out to the Saints’ 37 yardline to attempt what was thought to be impossible - a 63-yard field goal.

Somehow on this day “Stumpy”, as his coach affectionately called him, managed to launch the pigskin farther with half a foot than any full-footed kicker ever had! Fortunately for Dempsey, this kick was 10 yards shorter than it would be by modern standards. Sometime in the 41 years that have followed Tom Dempsey’s historic boot, the uprights were moved from the front of the end zone to the back, lengthening a kick from the opposing 37 by 10 yards! By no means does this take away from Dempsey’s accomplishment - we just thought we should clarify the distance for anyone thinking of attempting a 73-yarder by mistake.

Dempsey’s feat was matched in 1998 by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos. Keep in mind, however, that Elam’s kick was aided by the thin air of Mile-High Stadium...and his fully-formed foot. Apologies to all you Broncos fans out there, but we’re still gonna embed Dempsey’s kick:


While it's easy to think that NFL cheerleaders are rich, and glamorous and have affairs with NFL players. However it's far from the truth. The average cheerleader makes between $50 and $75 per game. You might say: "well, but at least they get to hang out with NFL stars, I'm sure a few get married to them." You'd be wrong. In fact, they're forbidden from socializing with the players!

They can make extra money by participating in paid public appearances, but they have to be approved by their coordinator. Some cheerleaders make a career of all the attention they get though. Teri Hatcher used to be a cheerleader for the San Francisco 49s before she jumped on to make hit TV shows like "Lois and Clark" and "Desperate Housewives."


\"\" During a typical NFL game, the ball is only in play for 11 minutes!

Yes. For every 3 hours you spend sitting on the couch watching an NFL game, you are only witnessing about bathroom break’s worth of actual football being played! What’s worse - 56% more of a broadcast’s time is devoted to things you have already seen - replays! On average, an hour of the program is spent on commercial breaks and up to 75 minutes (60% of the total time) shows players walking around between plays, huddling, or just standing at the line of scrimmage! Remarkably, shots of cheerleaders are only shown for an average three seconds, while coaches and referees receive around 7% of the total facetime of an NFL game!

I know what you’re saying - “that can’t be right, a single quarter of an NFL game is 15 minutes long!” But American football is not like most other sports. In football, the clock often keeps running regardless of the level of activity on the field. Look at it this way - a typical NFL play takes up about 4 seconds of clock time, but the players are allowed TEN TIMES this interval to just mill about behind the line of scrimmage! In fact, wasting time in this fashion and cheating viewers out of any potential action becomes a strategic advantage for the team that is ahead near the end of a game!

When former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner dines out with his family, he always anonymously picks up the bill for one other table.

Deion Sanders is a beastly athlete. After having a successful career in Florida State, he also started a career both in Major League Baseball and the National Football League. He was very successful in both. In the 1989 season, he hit a home run and score a touch down in the same week, becoming the only player to ever do that. He is also the only man to ever play in the Super Bowl and the MLBs World series. While he won two Super Bowls, he never won a World Series, though.

Sanders was a perennial All-Pro and was named the 34th best Football player of all time in the NFL.  Since his retirement, he's been inducted to both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame and went on to become a media analyst. 

Learn more about his awesome career here.

It’s almost common sense to know that the sports industry is one of the largest in America and brings in huge, billion dollar profits, but do you know just how big it actually is? It is well known that the star athletes make the headlines after being paid a couple million to play yet this still leaves billions left over after athlete’s salaries are paid. 

This is distributed between advertising, different leagues, team owners, coaches, physical therapists, and a variety of other jobs essential to the world of sports that most of us don’t consider. The total size of the American sport’s industry is believed to generate around $422 billion, with a whopping $27.8 billion spent on advertising. 

The NFL starts the list by generating around $9 billion in revenue. With 32 teams in the NFL the average team value is around $1 billion with around 66,957 spectators at each game. Next is baseball, bringing in a revenue of $7.2 billion with each team being worth an estimated $523 million.

Next is the NBA then the NHL, and NASCAR rounds out the bottom with $645.4 million. While these statistics may sound amazing, put in perspective the results are baffling. There are around 3 million American jobs invested in the sports industry, which is roughly 1% of the entire US population! To learn more about the sports breakdown, click below!


The Baltimore Ravens are named after Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."

The name was chosen in 1996 from the results of a poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun. Poe wrote this, one of his most famous poems, while living in Baltimore back in the 1830s. The teams mascots are even named Edgar, Allan, and Poe!

This was after the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. They decided to change the name, and Cleveland\'s new team has the Browns name. For the 2 seasons before that, Baltimore was home to a Canadian Football League team. They were called the Colts before being sued by the NFL, and then changed their name to the Stallions. When Baltimore finally got another NFL franchise, the Stallions moved to Montreal and became the Alouettes.

More facts about the Ravens and their history.
About 600 cows are used to manufacture a full season's worth of NFL footballs.

And all of these footballs are manufactured at ONE factory in a same town called Ada, Ohio! Wilson Sporting Goods Company has been the official football supplier for the National Football League since 1941, and 150 workers at the plant in Ada construct 700,000 regulation-sized footballs BY HAND each year! There\'s a New York Times article with more about Ada, Ohio.

If you\'re a cow (in which case, congrats on learning how to read!) you have only a 1 in 17,420,000 chance of becoming a football that is used in the Super Bowl (roughly the same odd of catching the black plague). Find out how those odds were calculated here.

\"\" For over a decade, players that were featured on the cover of the Madden NFL video games were ‘cursed’ with a serious injury or a dramatic reduction in performance during the following season.

Before 1999, most annual iterations of the Madden games featured their namesake, John Madden, on the cover. This all changed in ‘99 when Electronic Arts chose San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst for the cover after a breakout year. This set a precedent for the covers to feature prominent players from the previous season. However, many associate a “Madden Curse” to the practice because something bad always seemed to happen to the cover athlete in the following season. Let’s be honest though, there’s no real “curse”: players are bound to get injured at some point, and it’s usually fairly difficult to follow up on a banner year. The rotten luck Madden athletes have had over the past 10-plus seasons is pretty ridiculous though:

  • 1999 - Garrison Hearst: broken fibula, missed the next 2 seasons rehabbing; never got back to full strength
  • 2000 - Barry Sanders & Dorsey Levens: Sanders retired unexpectedly; Levens injured his knee and was relegated to a backup role for the rest of his career
  • 2001 - Eddie George: gave up interception return to Ray Lewis that lost the division finals for his team; spent much of the next season injured
  • 2002 - Daunte Culpepper: went 4-7 as a starter, threw 23 interceptions
  • 2003 - Marshall Faulk: ankle injury; failed to break 1,000 yards or make the playoffs
  • 2004 - Michael Vick: broke his leg in the preseason; only played 5 games
  • 2005 - Ray Lewis: recorded 0 interceptions in 2004, sat out the last game of the season with a torn hamstring, and barely missed out on the playoffs
  • 2006 - Donovan McNabb: started the season with a hernia, had surgery, missed 7 games, and his team finished in last their division
  • 2007 - Shaun Alexander: broke his left foot, missed 6 games
  • 2008 - Vince Young: quadriceps injury, missed his first game ever from an injury (including middle school, high school, and college)
  • 2009 - Brett Favre: started off well, but then threw just 2 touchdowns to 9 interceptions; failed to make the playoffs after starting out 8-3
  • 2010 - Troy Polamalu & Larry Fitzgerald: Polamalu sprained medial collateral ligament, missed 4 games, then tore his posterior cruciate ligament three games later and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Fitzgerald gained over 1,000 yards on the season, but suffered a rib injury at the end of the season that caused him to miss the playoff game and Pro Bowl.
  • 2011 - Drew Brees presumably \"broke\" the curse by playing through a minor MCL sprain, but still threw a career-high 22 interceptions.
  • 2012 - Peyton Hillis: only time will tell...


Sports bars pay special fees to be able to show sports games. A restaurant would have to pay hefty fees to each league they broadcast within their building. To play an NFL game on their TV, they’d have to pay the Nation Football League a fee.

One exception is from section 110 of the copyright law: you can show the game to a big crowd, provided you’re not charging a fee for people to watch it and that when you tune in, you’re only using a single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes.

Cable companies apparently periodically have done legal crackdowns on bars that subscribe to cable TV under a residential contract for display for patrons. The TV must be less than 55 inches to be shown at private parties.

There are actual auditors who go around and check how many people attend a bar for a game, because the special fees for broadcasting a game are partly calculated by how many will be attending.


The ‘G’ on the Green Bay Packers helmet does not stand for ‘Green Bay’.

Though the Packers are the NFL’s second-oldest team, their iconic logo did not come about until 42 years after the franchise was founded! Prior to this time, the team had used several different logos, but none were placed on the headgear until equipment manager George Braishear came up with the elliptical “G” design in 1961.

Although the meaning of the logo may seem like a no-brainer, Braishear did not intend for it to represent the franchise’s location. He meant for the letter to stand for “Greatness”, which he hoped the franchise’s players would embody. Braishear’s logo held true for the first two Super Bowls at least, both of which had the Packers came out as champions. The franchise has experienced another return to “greatness” recently, winning last year’s championship and coming out of the gates at a perfect 3-0 so far this season.

Super Bowl XLV was the first Super Bowl ever with no cheerleaders at the game.

This is because the Steelers and the Packers are 2 of the 6 teams in the league who don\'t employ cheerleaders (the other teams are the Bears, the Browns, the Lions, and the Giants). The Packers got rid of its cheerleading squad in 1988. Cheerleaders from nearby colleges perform during home games, but when the Packers are on the road (like the Super Bowl) they don't bring any cheerleaders with them. The Steelers dropped the Steelerettes from their franchise back in 1969. Apparently, the squad captain had asked the team's owner to update their uniforms, and he responded by firing all of them.

Interesting side-note: The game was hosted in Dallas, which ironically is the home of the most famous NFL cheerleading squad, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

And now, the greatest moment in cheerleading history (or at least the strangest)

The huddle formation used in football came from deaf football players.

Paul Hubbard, the quarterback for Gallaudet University (a university for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C.) came up with the huddle in the 1940s. The purpose was to prevent other teams from reading their sign language when they\'re discussing plays. It caught on, and the huddle is being used in NFL games to this day.

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