Before American Football, guitarist Mike Kinsella (Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc) and drummer Steve Lamos played in The One Up Downstairs with Dave and Allen Johnson (both of Very Secretary). The One Up Downstairs recorded a 3-song 7" which was to be released by Polyvinyl. Prior to the single's release, however, the group disbanded. (This recorded material was not unearthed until 2006, when incredible demand brought about a digital release of The One Up Downstairs EP). Soon after, Steve and Mike began practicing with guitarist Steve Holmes and American Football was born. After writing and practicing for about one year, they released a 3-song CDEP on Polyvinyl in October 1998. The band played a few shows around the Midwest and then recorded a self-titled album which Polyvinyl released in September 1999. Following the release, American Football played a few more shows in the Midwest and one show at New York University. About a year after the album had been released, American Football became primarily a studio project before its members mutually decided to quit recording together. Steve Lamos formed DMS before reuniting with Steve Holmes in their short-lived, The Geese.Mike Kinsella continues to play in Joan of Arc with his brother Tim Kinsella and is recording solo material as Owen.
A testament to the act's lasting influence, American Football maintains a loyal fan base eager for material from the band. Due to an outpouring of request, in 2004 Polyvinyl reissued American Football on vinyl and since, the label has also released a new American Football T-shirt design. Following up on past success and requests, in 2008 Polyvinyl issued a 1-sided 12" of the American Football EPwith new photography by Chris Strong. Despite the small amount of recorded work and hardly any touring, American Football remains one of Polyvinyl Records most beloved bands to this day.