The 1920 Rock Island Independents season was the American football franchises thirteenth season and inaugural season in the American Professional Football Association. The Independents hosted first ever APFA/National Football League contest on September 26,1920, after the AFPA had been formed on September 17,1920, Douglas Park was the venue as the Independents hosted the St. Paul Ideals, winning 48-0 in the new leagues first contest. The Independents entered the season coming off a nine-win, one-loss, one-tie record in 1919 as an independent team, which the team proclaimed to be the Champions of the USA. After the 1919 season, several representatives from the Ohio League, another American football league, wanted to form a new league, thus. A majority of the team stayed from the 1919 team, including the coaching staff, the Independents opened the season with a win against the St. Paul Ideals, a non-APFA team. This was the first game in the history of the APFA, the team played all but one game at their home field, Douglas Park, and ended the season with a 6–2–2 record, which placed the team tied-for-fourth in the league standings. The sportswriter Bruce Copeland compiled the All-Pro list for the 1920 season, Fred Denfield, Dewey Lyle, and Ed Novak made the first-team, Obe Wenig and Ed Shaw made the second-team, and Walt Buland and Freeman Fitzgerald made the third-team. Of all the players on the roster, only Ed Healey has been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Rock Island Independents finished 9–1–1 in their 1919 season, claiming the National Championship. The team lost Wes Bradshaw, Leland Dempsey, Al Jorgenson, Loyal Robb, Fats Smith, Red Swanson, and co-coach John Roche. After the 1919 season, representatives of the Canton Bulldogs, the Cleveland Tigers, the Dayton Triangles, at the meeting, they tentatively agreed on a salary cap and pledged not to sign college players or players already under contract with other teams. They also agreed on a name for the circuit, the American Professional Football Conference and they then invited other professional teams to a second meeting on September 17. Representatives of the Buffalo All-Americans and Rochester Jeffersons could not attend the meeting, team representatives changed the leagues name slightly to the American Professional Football Association and elected officers, installing Jim Thorpe as president. Under the new structure, teams created their schedules dynamically as the season progressed. Also, representatives of each team voted to determine the winner of the APFA trophy. September 26,1920, at Douglas Park, Rock Island, Illinois To start its 1920 season and this was the Ideals second game of the season, coming off a 14–7 victory the week prior. Coach Flanigan had Fred Chicken, Bobby Marshall, and Freeman Fitzgerald—the 1919 Independents main stars—in reserve in case he needed to play them, the Independents shutout the Ideals, winning 48–0. Every touchdown by the Independents were rushing, in the first quarter, Ed Novak and Chicken both scored, Novak and Jerry Mansfield scored in the second quarter. The Independents scored 14 points in the quarter with touchdowns from Ray Kuehl
Team photograph of the 1919 Rock Island Independents, when the team claimed the USA Championship.
Douglas Park, home of the Independents, circa 1920
Walter Flanigan, manager of the 1920 Rock Island Independents