NFL: How All 32 Teams Got Their Names

1920 Decatur Staleys

One of the NFL’s most storied clubs; the team began as a company football team.

George Halas was an exceptional athlete at the University of Illinois where he excelled in baseball and football. He was named the Rose Bowl MVP. After a stint in World War I, he played minor league baseball and eventually landed on the New York Yankees. A hip injury would end his baseball career.

In 1919, he accepted a civil engineering job in the bridge department of the railroad. On weekends, he played for the Hammond Pros, an independent football team. A spectator at one game was a man by the name of Augustus Staley who owned a starch factory in Decatur, Illinois.

Staley had a company baseball and basketball team he used for mainly advertising purposes. He wanted to start a football team and offered Halas a position with the A. E. Staley Company. His duties would be to learn the starch business, become the athletic director of the company, and  play on the company teams. Halas went back to the railroad and thought about whether he would be happy sitting behind a desk for 25 years. He then accepted Staley’s offer.

Halas played on each company sports team and started the football squad. The team colors chosen were those of his college team. It just so happened that a new league was being formed. Halas attended the meeting in Canton, Ohio and the "Decatur Staleys" were born right along with the NFL.

The Staleys were a good team right from the beginning. Halas was strict and had the advantage that most other teams didn’t have—job opportunities. The starch company could offer the better players a job while they played for the company team. In the first season, the Staleys finished in second place.

The following year, Augustus Staley began to downsize his athletic endeavors. He offered Halas $5,000 to continue for one more season with the stipulation that the Staleys nickname would continue for advertising purposes, but suggested relocation to a larger city in order to draw bigger crowds. Halas chose nearby Chicago.

The "Chicago Staleys" were able to lease Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs., and captured the 1921 NFL title. In 1922, after the affliation with Staley was completed, Halas renamed his team the "Chicago Cubs" in hopes that fans would support both sports. Upon consideration, he noted that football players were bigger than their baseball counterparts, so if baseball players were cubs, then football players must be "Bears."

The Bears have been one of the NFL’s most successful franchises over the decades. Halas signed Red Grange in 1925 and overflowing crowds waited wherever the Bears played. A game in New York was responsible for saving the Giants franchise from financial ruin.

So many great players have been a member of the Bears throughout the years such as Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Red Grange, Walter Payton and Bronko Nagurski.. Only in eight of their first 50 years did the Bears finish worse than third place. The Bears, along with the Cardinals, are the only two charter members still in existence. 

This franchise has won nine NFL titles (second most), including one Super Bowl. The team is known as “The Team of the 1940s” due to their four NFL Championships and five division titles.  

Halas served the Bears as an owner, player, coach, general manager, traveling secretary and in virtually every other capacity imaginable with the Bears. Halas passed away on October 31, 1983. He is known as the “Father of the NFL.”

Origin Facts:

Established: 1920

Original Owner: A. E. Staley

Original Colors: Black & white

First Stadium: Staley Field, seating: none

Retired Jerseys: No. 3 Bronko Nagurski, No. 5 George McAfee, No. 7 George Halas, No. 42 Sid Luckman, No. 66 Bulldog Turner, No. 28 Willie Galimore, No. 77 Red Grange, No. 56 Bill Hewitt End, No. 61 Bill George, No. 40 Gale Sayers, No. 51 Dick Butkus, No. 41 Brian Piccolo, No. 34 Walter Payton

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