The Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association periodically sends out press releases about native Wisconsinites who graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As you’re watching the Super Bowl this year, take a moment to celebrate Door County native and UW-Madison alumnus Edward “Eddie” Cochems. You see, Eddie helped to create the modern-day football game. His story — and profiles of many other UW-Madison alumni who have changed the world — are featured in Thank You, 72: A salute to outstanding Badgers from every one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. (See all of their stories at

Born in Sturgeon Bay in 1877, Cochems competed in baseball, football and track for UW-Madison and graduated in 1900. During his four seasons on the gridiron, the football Badgers compiled a 35-4-1 record. A classmate described him as “one of the most spectacular men of my time . . . wonderfully built, handsome and affable” — and one not prone to injury on the field.

Cochems’ football career at the University of Wisconsin was a great start, but it was his time as a football coach at Saint Louis University that assured his place in the sport’s history books. During his first season as head coach in 1906, Cochems, an enthusiast of the newly allowed forward pass, used the play as a key part of his offensive strategy. In fact, his team successfully completed football’s first legal forward pass, which he called the “air attack.”

Cochems’ team finished the season undefeated, and in time, the nickname Father of the Forward Pass was frequently paired with his name. Without Eddie Cochems, there would be no Patrick Mahomes or Jimmy Garoppolo.

Cochems contributed other important innovations to the game as well: in 1907, he added numbers to his players’ uniforms to help fans identify them from the stands and he advocated for the design of a more aerodynamic football.

After completing his football career, Cochems became active in political campaigns. He returned to Madison in the early 1930s and died in 1953. In 1999, Sports Illustrated included him among the 50 greatest sports figures in Wisconsin history.

Now, grab some snacks and refreshments and get ready for Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday, Feb. 2, at 5:30 p.m. on FOX.