What’s Great About Living in the QCA: Rock Island Sports Edition


Many Quad Citians could come up with all kinds of reasons why our area–and specifically Rock Island–is a great place to live. But for my sports fans, this one’s for you! We have a rich athletic history in Rock Island dating back to some historic firsts. So, with the help of my dear husband, here is the highlight reel on why RI is #1! Please welcome my guest co-Blogger, Derek, as we share together the reasons why Rock Island is a historical sports hub (& is still producing amazing talent!).

  Welcome to Rock Island post card  

  • Did you know that the first game in the American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League) was right here in Rock Island? Our original football team, The Rock Island Independents, were formed in 1907 and played at Douglas Park. The Independents developed into one of the best teams in the country. Unlike the Moline Tractors, the Independents were invited to help found the APFA in 1920 alongside the other “Founding Fathers” of professional football, like George “Papa Bear” Hallas of the Decatur Staleys. The Independents hosted the first game in NFL history on September 26th, 1920 against the St. Paul Ideals, defeating them 48-0. 

 Also–fun fact: the historic Douglas Park grounds are still used today! The Rock Island Park District holds kids sports programs there and the Rock Island Independents Vintage Football Team plays friendly games in period attire to celebrate our historic past! 

Rock Island Independents uniforms

  • Not only is the Rock Island Independents history super awesome, but our town was also the place of a groundbreaking moment for African Americans in NFL history. Bobby Marshall made history on September 26th, 1920 as the first Black player to play in the APFA (later named the NFL) and his first game was played with the Rock Island Independents at Douglas Park! As the grandson of Virginia slaves, he was an impressive professional as well as a three-sport legend in football, baseball and hockey. Marshall was the first Black athlete at the University of Minnesota and became one of the greatest players in school history. He is believed to hold a lot of other firsts, including first Black graduate from Minnesota’s Law School and the first Black hockey player-after signing with an independent Pennsylvania team. Despite his incredible abilities, he was not allowed to live in the dorms on campus and feared for his safety when traveling during his professional athletic career. 

Bobby Marshall

This brave man has footprints here in our very own Rock Island and we are so proud to have hosted some of that amazing history! 

  • Many small Midwestern towns may claim that they produce talent, but they don’t do it like we do here in the 61201! A lot of famous athletic names have come out of Rock Island, both past and present. Like, Don Nelson, who has accumulated loads of basketball accolades including induction into the NBA Hall of Fame as a coach! Don lived in Rock Island and played basketball at Rocky High! Don’t forget other fellow Rocky Alumni such as pro tennis player Madison Keys, who achieved a career-ranking of #7 in the WORLD in 2016 and has consistently ranked within the top 25 of professional women’s tennis players in the world since then. Or NBA player Chasson Randle, who led the Rocky Boys Basketball team to win the IL Class 3A State Title in 2011, making them the first Illinois-side QC Boys Basketball program to do so! There is a list of about 15 other names you can find here. 

Madison Keys Chasson Randle

Help us out–what history did we miss? What amazing athletic talent has come out of Rock Island that makes us simply the best? Educate us in the comments!


Love, Becky & Derek Clark (Rock Island residents) 

{Thanks, hunny, for the assist!}

Derek & Becky Clark

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Becky Clark is a local Rock Island mama to 2 kids--ages 10 and 6. Becky has been married to her high school best friend, Derek, since 2005. Becky and Derek have been Quad Citians for 10 years, although they originally hail from the northern Chicago suburbs. Becky is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and provides therapy services part time at South Park Psychology in Moline as a contracted private practice clinician. She also teaches Social Worker courses online for Ashford University. Becky is very active as a volunteer at the kid's school as well as at their home church, Bethany Baptist in Moline. Becky loves spending time with her family, friends and her church family. She also enjoys being a tourist in her own town, reading, crafting and volunteering for ALL the things--much to her husband's dismay. The Clarks hope to add a furry {baby} family member to their brood this summer, ensuring that no one will ever sleep again. To follow Becky's clinical therapy business on Instagram, visit her at: https://www.instagram.com/12stonescounseling/ To schedule a psychotherapy session with Becky for you or your family member, call South Park Psychology in Moline at 309-797-2900 and ask to be scheduled with Rebekah Clark


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