Most of us watched the Super Bowl last night. As fans we would agree the forward pass is the most exciting aspect of American football today.
The history of the forward pass began September 5, 1906 during a football game between St. Louis University and Carroll College.
Football’s first legal forward pass
St. Louis University player Bradbury Robinson threw football’s first legal forward pass to Jack Schneider against Carroll College that day in 1906.
The head coach that called that play was Eddie Cochems.
Eddie reportedly did not call for a pass play in the Carroll game until after he had grown frustrated with the failure of his offense to move the ball on the ground.
After an initial forward pass attempt from Robinson to Schneider that fell incomplete that resulted in a turnover, Coach Cochems called for his team to again execute the play he called the “air attack” and sometimes even the “projectile pass.”
Robinson threw the fat, rugby-style football for a 20 yard touchdown pass to Schneider, and American football was on its way to becoming the game we know today. That day in September of 1906, St. Louis University went on to beat Carroll College with a final score of 22-0.
Edward Bulwer “Eddie” Cochems was born February 4, 1877 at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Eddie had a twin brother, however we are not sure whether Eddie was born first or second. Eddie and his twin brother Carl were two of eleven children, with Eddie growing up as the smallest of seven brothers.
One of Eddie’s older brothers, Henry, became a star football player for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
When Eddie became an all around athlete himself, he was accepted to play football for Wisconsin-Madison along with baseball and track.
Eddie became the captain of the 1901 Wisconsin baseball team, but gained his greatest acclaim as the left end on the football team. At that time we must note that an end was simply another lineman, an end did not yet go out for passes.
Eddie was soon moved to the position of left halfback, with Wisconsin-Madison posting a 35-4-1 record during his four seasons.
In 1902, 25 year old Eddie Cochems, was hired as the head football coach at North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) at Fargo.
Eddie led his Aggies to an undefeated and unscored upon record, outscoring opponents by a combined 168 points to zero. His 1903 finished with only one loss.
In 1904, the University of Wisconsin athletic board voted to select Eddie to serve as the school’s assistant football coach and assistant athletic director with a salary of $800.
In December 1904, Eddie was passed over during the selection as head coach at Wisconsin and accepted the head football coach position at Clemson University.
During the 1905 season, Eddie led Clemson to shutout wins over Georgia (35-0), Alabama (25-0), and Auburn (6-0), but lost to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech.
St. Louis University
In February 1906, Eddie was hired as the head football coach at St. Louis University. The 1906 college football season was played with new rules, which included legalizing the forward pass for the first time.
Eddie Cochems had reportedly long been an enthusiast of the forward pass.
Like Eddie, Bradbury Robinson was fascinated by the potential of the forward pass. Robinson was introduced to the forward pass in 1904 by Wisconsin teammate, H.P. Savage, who threw the ball overhand almost as far as Robinson was punting it to him. Savage taught Robinson how to throw a spiral pass, and the forward pass thereafter became Robinson’s “football hobby.”
To prepare for his team’s first season under the new rules, Eddie Cochems convinced St. Louis University to allow him to take his team to a Jesuit sanctuary at Lake Beulah in southern Wisconsin for “the sole purpose of studying and developing the pass.”
Author Harold Keith wrote in Esquire magazine that it was at Lake Beulah in August 1906 that coach Eddie Cochems developed “the first, forward pass system ever devised.”
Eddie’s 1906 St. Louis University Football team went undefeated with an 11-0 record, led the nation in scoring, and outscored opponents by a combined score of 407 to 11.
Edward Bulwer “Eddie” Cochems today is considered to be the “father of the forward pass” in American Football.
Now WE know em