The Rochester Jeffersons from Rochester, New York played in the National Football League from 1920 to 1925.
Formed as an amateur outfit by a rag-tag group of Rochester-area teenagers after the turn of the century (a 1925 report has the team being founded in 1898), the team became known as the Jeffersons in reference to the locale of their playing field on Jefferson Avenue. Around 1908 a teenager by the name of Leo Lyons joined with the club as a player, and within two years began to manage, finance, and promote the team on a full-time basis.
For their first decade of their existence the "Jeffs" played other amateur and semi-pro teams from the upstate New York area such as the Rochester Scalpers and the Oxfords. By the fall of 1917, the Jeffs had started to look past state borders not only for big-name opponents, but for big-name talent as well.
At the end of October, 1917 Lyons managed to secure a match against the country's greatest team, the Canton Bulldogs, who had the legendary Jim Thorpe as their star attraction. Thorpe's squad crushed the Jeffs 41-0, but the audacity of challenging such a superior team to a match won Lyons and his club a bit of notoriety, and three years later they were fortunate to be included as an inaugural member of the newly formed American Professional Football Association, which would be known in two years as the National Football League.
As it turned out, Rochester was more interested in its thriving sandlot football circuit of "local boys" than in professional football. The team was caught in the middle: it had recruited players that had made it too good to play in the sandlot circuit, but not good enough to compete with NFL teams. As a result, its attendance suffered badly, with the local semi-pro teams drawing as many as ten times the number of fans as Jeffersons games. The team only won two games against NFL opponents during its entire history, both in the 1921 season, and both were relatively weak opponents: the Tonawanda Kardex, whose match against Rochester was their only game in the league, and the Columbus Panhandles, who would go 0-8 that year and end up at the bottom of the league standings. The Jeffersons never won a league game for the rest of their existence, incurring four straight winless seasons from 1922 to 1925.
After an unsuccessful last-ditch effort to lure Red Grange to Rochester (he instead signed with the Chicago Bears), the team suspended operations after the 1925 NFL season; by this point, the team had been losing money (to the point where Lyons' house had been foreclosed upon because of his dumping of virtually all his assets into the team) and had been a traveling team for two seasons (1920 and 1925). The team remained technically suspended for 1926 and 1927, but allowed its franchise to expire in 1928. Lyons stayed on with the league as an unofficial historian after the Jeffersons' folding.
The intellectual property rights to the Jeffersons are currently held by John Steffenhagen, the great-grandson of former Jeffersons owner Leo Lyons.
- ↑ Crippen, Kenneth (2009-07-29). The Rochester Jeffersons take the national stage, part 1. Professional Football Researchers Association. Retrieved 2010-11-09.
- ↑ Crippen, Kenneth (2009-07-29). The Rochester Jeffersons take to the national stage, part 2. Professional Football Researchers Association. Retrieved 2010-11-09.
- Rochester Jeffersons Official Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000733201022
- Carroll, Bob. THE TOWN THAT HATED PRO FOOTBALL. Pro Football Researchers Association Coffin Corner: Vol. III, 1981.
- PFRA