Celebrating the Legacy and Impact of Semi-Professional Football

Ryan Cunningham Michigan

The most die-hard football fans know that there’s more than one way to devote one’s life to the game. Only a handful of men have ever made it to the NFL, but around the country there are thousands of men and women who have played semi-pro football – and thousands more who pack the stands to watch this unique dedication to the game.

Believe it or not, the American Football Association (AFA) has been advancing and promoting adult minor league and semi-pro football in the United States for 43 years! Unaffiliated with any other national semi-pro or minor league organization, it’s on a mission to ensure that the memories of those who have played, coached, officiated, and managed at the minor league level are kept alive for generations to come.

Ryan Cunningham of Michigan explains that from its humble beginnings, the AFA has cultivated a sense of community and camaraderie among the unsung heroes of minor league football.

The History of the AFA

In 1980, Ronald J. Real founded the American Football Association (AFA) with a vision to revolutionize minor league football. Originally known as the Minor Professional Football Association (MPFA), the organization embarked on a mission to establish Minor League Football.

A significant milestone came in 1981 when the AFA orchestrated its first All-Star Game, an event that showcased the talents of the top 100 minor league football players to NFL scouts and coaches. This event served as a platform for aspiring athletes to capture the attention of the football world and demonstrate their abilities on a grand stage.

While Real originally aspired to create a comprehensive minor league system akin to those in baseball, ice hockey, and basketball, financial and organizational challenges necessitated a shift in focus. The AFA redirected its efforts towards providing vital services to semi-pro teams nationwide, becoming a driving force in supporting and nurturing the growth of football at the grassroots level.

Recognizing the need to embrace all levels of non-professional football, the AFA underwent another transformation in 1986 when it rebranded itself as the American Football Association (AFA), a name that encompassed its broader scope and potential involvement in various tiers of the sport.

Ryan Cunningham Michigan

Honoring Semi-Professional Football Players

Semi-pro football teams for men and women exist all over the United States. We may not be able to see them play on television, but their dedication to the game is one that isn’t swayed by a checkbook but for a true love of the game.

At the heart of the American Football Association’s (AFA) mission is the unwavering commitment to honor and celebrate the exceptional contributions of those involved in minor league football by deserving individuals into the Minor League Football Hall of Fame.

Induction ceremonies go beyond celebrating athletes, also paying tribute to the coaches, executives, officials, and other notable figures who have left an indelible mark on the landscape of minor league football. It is a collective acknowledgment of the multifaceted nature of the game, recognizing the invaluable contributions made by all who have been involved in its growth and success.


The American Football Association is dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of minor league and semi-professional football players across the country and fostering a sense of community that inspires the next wave of athletes and leaders within the sport.

Ryan Cunningham
Ryan Cunningham Michigan