The NFL draft cast its national spotlight on Dayton on Saturday, as thousands of people turned out to the site of the league’s first game in 1920.
And Senior Airman Christian Edens and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley shared in the NFL’s history — as Triangle Park has for nearly a century — by announcing two Cincinnati Bengals sixth-round draft picks.
Whaley introduced the pick of Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams by calling Dayton “an NFL original town.”
Edens, a member of the 88th Mission Support Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, announced the selection of Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson.
The four-hour event helped cap the final hours of the NFL’s three-day draft, which highlighted Dayton and other cities that played a role in launching what has become the nation’s most popular sport.
“We are celebrating a series of events that led to the birth of a multibillion dollar industry and a favorite American pastime,” said Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton History.
The NFL is also plans to mark Dayton’s contributions to the league by installing a new artificial turf field at the park where the Dayton Triangles played. The project’s groundbreaking — originally scheduled for Saturday — was put on hold due to concerns of a local native American leader about that possibly being a burial ground.
The field is expected to host a Bengals practice later in the year.
The Bengals initially had several sixth-round picks expected to be announced in Dayton. Two of those were traded to San Francisco and one was swapped with Dallas. A fourth Cincinnati pick in that round was announced by former Bengal quarterback Ken Anderson in Illinois, event organizers said.
The number of picks announced locally didn’t dampen the mood for some Dayton residents who came for this historical perspective.
Ricardo Brower, 53, said he started thinking about attending about two weeks ago
“I’m a big football fan,” he said. “You’re talking about the 100th year of NFL football — right here. So I wanted to be here.”
Cindy Tollinger said she lives near the park and is interested in its past.
“I’m a history buff,” said Tollinger, 60. “And I’ve known about the football team and the history of … starting the work leagues and starting the Triangles.
“There is such a rich history here. There are so many inventors and a lot of exciting things that have happened in Dayton.”
The first NFL game was played at Triangle Park on Oct. 3, 1920, between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles.
Lou Partlow, who worked at Appleton Paper Company in West Carrollton, scored the first touchdown in NFL history as his Triangles defeated the Columbus Panhandles, 14-0.
The new 85,000 square foot field — whose Revolution 360 surface is also used by the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons — will be near the site of the original game, which actually was played where the nearby renovated baseball site Howell Field now stands.
The decision to hold off on the new field was made “out of an abundance of caution and respect for a concern raised this week,” the city announced Friday afternoon.
City officials will “consult with local archaeological resources and members of the native American community to ensure an inclusive process that is respectful and consistent with construction best practices,” according to the statement.
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