Saturday, December 11, 2010

New book details the life of “the Henry Ford of the NFL”: Columbus, Ohio’s Joe F. Carr

New book details the life of “the Henry Ford of the NFL”: Columbus, Ohio’s Joe F. Carr. A Columbus, Ohio-native himself, Chris Willis of NFL Films sheds light on the man who turned the NFL into the world’s most popular spectator sport.
(December 7, 2010) Though he was among the initial seventeen inductees into Canton, Ohio’s Pro Football Hall of Fame; the work of Joe F. Carr has been overlooked and seemingly misplaced in the annals of the National Football League. Chris Willis, Head of the Research Library at NFL Films, has compiled the rich history of Carr’s life and work in the new book titled, The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr published by The Scarecrow Press Inc. (

Described as “the Henry Ford of the NFL” by Willis the book details what has become the hidden history of Joe F. Carr. Willis was given complete access to Carr’s family and associates and brings the life of Carr, born the son of Irish immigrants, back to the forefront. The author recounts Carr as the man who had a vision for a little known sport and rose to become the diligent, straight-shooting president of the National Football League. Much of the structure for today’s NFL was developed by Carr, including standard player's contracts, rules for college recruitment, professional football regulations, players' statistics, creation of two NFL divisions, the NFL draft, and the championship game.

During his 18 years as President of the NFL, Carr saw the league expand from struggling franchises scattered in and around the Ohio to major business and sports conglomerates in nearly every major U.S. city. Willis shows us how it was Carr who recruited the folks who purchased franchises that would become the NFL’s Steelers, Eagles, Giants, Lions, Cardinals and Redskins. Many of these families are not only enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but those same families continue to own these franchises to this day.

Not only did Carr change the name of the then American Professional Football Association to what we know today as the National Football League, he established what would be among the first NFL offices in downtown Columbus, Ohio located on the 11th floor of 16 East Broad Street. Willis informs us that it was Carr’s idea to model the NFL after the largest, most popular sport in the U.S. at the time: Major League Baseball; he even accurately predicted in 1933 that football would eventually overtake baseball as America’s most popular sport. At the same time it was who Carr predicted that the success of the game would create the need to build indoor stadiums.

Willis brings back the life of the man who dedicated his life to the movement that would make professional football what it is today from 1921 till his untimely death in 1939 at the age of 59. Willis gives insight on the man inside and outside of football from members of the Carr family, many whom still reside in Ohio’s Capitol City.

Did you know…Carr also served for a time as President of the American Basketball League and the Columbus Senators baseball team?...Carr was among the first seventeen members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame which included such names as Sammy Baugh, Red Grange, Jim Thorpe, Curly Lambeau, George Halas, Ernie Nevers, and Bronko Nagurski…the first NFL Most Valuable Player award was named for Carr before the award before the award was ceased and when it was brought back Carr’s name disappeared.

In all, Chris Willis reconnects you with the hidden details behind the creation of the NFL and the impact a Columbus, Ohio man had on a sport we know and love with, The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr.

About The Author:
Chris Willis
Head of the Research Library
NFL Films

Willis has held his position with NFL Films since 1996. This is his third book. His other works include Old Leather: An Oral History of Early Pro Football in Ohio, 1920-1935 (Scarecrow, 2005) and The Columbus Panhandles: A Complete History of Pro Football's Toughest Team, 1900-1922 (Scarecrow, 2007).

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