American Football Database


Cooney Checkaye
No. None     
Head Coach
Personal information
Date of birth: (1893-01-06)January 6, 1893
Muncie, Indiana
Date of death: 1970
Career information
College: None
Debuted in 1917 for the Muncie Flyers
Last played in 1926 for the Muncie Flyers
Career history
  • Muncie Flyers (1917-1925)
  • Muncie Flyers (1921)
  • Muncie Flyers (1922)
Career highlights and awards
National Football League Co-Founder

Severin Joseph Checkaye (born 1893-1970) was a professional football player, coach and owner. He was also a co-founder of the National Football League. Checkaye's franchise, the Muncie Flyers was a charter member of the league.

Early football career

After graduating from high school in 1916, Cooney played semi-pro football for a team based in Wabash, Indiana. By 1919, he organized a team in Muncie, Indiana, the Congerville Flyers (a team that would later be the Muncie Flyers). Cooney soon became a star player in the region.

Forming the NFL

In 1920, Checkaye represented Muncie at the meeting that formed the NFL. The meeting was set up by Ralph Hay who owned a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio, a Decatur Staleys (renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922) owner, George Halas. Halas and Hay gathered similarly-minded men from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and New York for a meeting in Hay’s Hupmobile showroom on September 17, 1920.

Due to the hot weather that occurred that night, a couple of the owners went to a local bar and bought several buckets of beer which they hung from the fender of one Hay’s cars. The owners then sat on the dealership's running boards and organized the American Professional Football Association (renamed the National Football League in 1922). After the meeting, Checkaye was the quarterback, owner and manager of the Muncie Flyers of the brand new APFA.

NFL career

Sixteen days later, the season opened with two games for Sunday October 3, 1920. The games consisted of the Columbus Panhandles playing the Dayton Triangles at Dayton, while Muncie played the Rock Island Independents at Rock Island. With Dayton and Rock Island being in different time zones, as well as their being no standard kickoff times and the fact that newspaper accounts of the games did not give the kickoff times, so there’s no way of knowing which game started first. This means that Cooney may have played in the very first NFL game. However the Flyers lost their game to Independents, 45-0. It would be the team's only game played during the 1920 season. The Flyers had a tough time finding teams to play against in the league. The Staleys cancelled their game against Muncie the following week and a game to be played against Dayton was rained out.

The Flyers came back to the APFA in 1921. The team though lost league games against the Evansville Crimson Giants, and the Cincinnati Celts. They were scheduled to play again on November 13, 1921 against the Green Bay Packers, however that game was cancelled, leaving the Flyers with a 0-2-0 APFA record. The team then folded. Cooney cited that the salaries, transportation and operating costs were just too steep for the team’s gate receipts.

The Flyers mark in APFA football was an unimpressive 0-3-0. But during 1920 and 1921, the Flyers posted a 4-0-0 mark against non-APFA teams. Including 1919, the Flyers posted a 8-1-1 record against non-APFA teams.

The team regrouped and began playing independently of the NFL, after 1922. Cooney renamed the team the Congerville Flyers. By 1925 the Flyers based their team out of neighboring Jonesboro, and was called the Jonesboro Flyers. The team played 9 of 11 games in Jonesboro and finished with a 6-2-3 record, before disbanding for good that year.


After his NFL career ended, Cooney went to work at Republic Iron & Steel. He married Mayme McCabe in 1927.