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DAY TRIP: Independents’ Day: Rock Island joins NFL’s 100th birthday celebration

ROCK ISLAND – The National Football League’s celebration that’s been a century in the making will touch down in the Quad Cities this month, and you’re invited to join in on the festivities. 

NFL100 is a year-long celebration marking the 100th birthday of the NFL in Canton, Ohio, where the league was formalized Aug. 20, 1920, at a Hupmobile dealership. Part of this commemoration of 100 years of football is to bring everyone together, from fans to players along with communities and all 32 clubs, for a variety of programs and activities.

As part of that celebration, the NFL will honor the homes of the 14 teams and 13 cities – Chicago had two teams – that made up the league’s first season. Rock Island is one of those communities and it will celebrate with a live event announcing a 2019 NFL draft pickon April 27 at Augustana College’s Austin E. Knowlton Athletic Complex.

During the 2019 NFL Draft, selections from Rock Island and seven of the league’s “Original Towns” outside of the 32 current NFL markets will be made during a live telecast at the complex.

The Rock Island program will focus on the city’s history, fans and elected officials.

The Rock Island Independents were based in their hometown from 1907-1926 and were a founding NFL franchise. On Sept. 26, 1920, they hosted what would come to be called the First National Football League Game at Douglas Park.

“There’s no better way to bring the League’s 100 years of history full circle than to partner with these communities and recognize their important place in history as part of the NFL’s centennial celebration,”  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news release.

Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms added, "We could not be more excited about the NFL draft coming to Rock Island. There has been a lot of hard work put in to get recognized, and the NFL honoring us with a draft pick for their 100th Anniversary confirms Rock Island's status in the history of professional football. The public is invited to join us on April 27… it's going to be a fantastic time,"

Steve Bahls, president of Augustana College, said that the college has been ranked one of the 25 most beautiful in the nation, yet far too few have visited the campus.

With the NFL event, that could change. 

The event gates will open at noon, but you don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy and appreciate the day. A Family Fun Zone will have carnival games and bounce houses. The first 150 children will receive goodie bags.

Children also can participate in a Youth Football Skills Clinic for girls and boys in first through sixth grade. Check-in time is noon; the clinic starts at 12:30. It will be led by Alleman High School, Augustana College and Rock Island High School football teams. Students will be taught drills and on-the-field skills for all levels. Advanced registration at  is required; space is limited.

The day will also feature music. A disc jockey, the pep bands and cheerleaders from Rock Island and Alleman high schools, along with the Metropolitan Youth Program will provide entertainment. What’s not to like?

At 2 p.m., it’s time for a view of the past. A vintage football game will feature the Rock Island Independents vs. St. Paul Ideals. This is a re-creation of a September 1920 game that was played at Douglas Park. The teams will wear historical uniforms and will follow game rules from the past.

At 2 and 4:30, the NFL will broadcast a sixth-round draft pick from Rock Island. Any events going on at those times will pause for the broadcasts, and then continue.

T-shirts commemorating the game can be purchased, and food and beverages will be sold.

Football fans, history buff or those who just want to have fun won’t want to miss this event. After all, it only rolls around every 100 years.

If you go …

What: NFL100 draft pick

When: Gates open at noon, April 27

Where: Austin E. Knowlton Athletic Complex, Augustana College, 639 38th St., Rock Island

Cost: Free

Distance: About 69 miles

Accessibility: Accessible to wheelchairs

Information: for more NFL celebration information; call Rock Island Parks and Recreation at 309-732-7275 or contact Visit Quad Cities at and 800-747-7800

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