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The first football shoulder pads were created by Princeton student L.P. Smock in 1877. These were made of leather and wool and were thin, light, and did not provide much protection. Additionally, they were sewn into the players' jerseys rather than being worn as a separate piece of equipment.  Allegedly Pop Warner was the first to have his players wear shoulder pads. When he was coaching at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, he was the first one to use pads made of fiber rather than cotton.
Most modern shoulder pads consist of a shock absorbing foam material with a hard plastic outer covering. The pieces are usually secured by rivets or strings that the user can tie to adjust the size.
Properly fitting pads are critical. Shoulder pads are fitted to an adult football player by measuring across the player's back from shoulder blade to shoulder blade with a soft cloth tape measure and then adding 1⁄2 inch. All points of the pads should be checked to assure proper fit. Maintenance during football season includes monthly checks and replacing worn parts.
In terms of American Football, various styles of shoulder pads exist for different positions played. Pads for a quarterback are lightweight and offer freedom of movement. Pads for linemen are designed with few flaps and epaulets, thus reducing the opportunity of being grabbed by the opposition. A player may have a preference for vinyl buckles or elastic straps.
- Powers, Francis J. (1969). Life Story of Glen S. (Pop) Warner, Gridiron's Greatest Strategist. Chicago, IL: The Athletic Institute.
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