By Eric Smiley || Contributing Writer

When Tom Brady walked on to the field Thursday night to loud cheers and celebration, one thing was certainly clear–football is back. Uniquely American, the beginning of football season is anxiously waited for by millions of fans from February to September each year.

Earlier during last year’s offseason, “Deflategate,” a controversy regarding allegations that Tom Brady knowingly tampered with footballs during last years’ AFC game, was a subject of much media attention. However, on Sep. 3rd, Judge Richard Berman threw out Brady’s suspension rendering Brady able to play Thursday’s opener against “Big Ben” Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. And boy, did Brady come out to play. He completed 25 of 32 passes for 288 yards and four touchdown throws during Thursday night’s 28-21 victory over the Steelers.

Three of those were to All-Pro tight end Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski. Patriots Wide receiver Julian Edelman, also electric, caught 11 passes for 97 yards. Perhaps the most surprising Patriots performance was from running back Dion Lewis, who totaled 120 yards. Before the game, Brady told reporters that he expected Lewis to become a cult hero among Patriot fans. On the other side, Roethlisberger completed 26 of 28 passes for 351 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His one touchdown throw was to All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Brown had nine receptions for 133 yards and was covered for the entire game by last season’s Super Bowl hero, corner back Malcolm Butler.

While the season has officially begun, there are changes to the league that are worth addressing. This season, the NFL will have its first full-time female game official, Sarah Thomas.  Another change this season is the extra-point kick that has been moved to the 15-yard line, making the kick equivalent to a genuine 33 yard field goal.

So far this season an extra-point kick has not been missed but there will likely be several throughout the season. Last but not least, the Super Bowl turns 50 this year with the first being played in January of 1967.

As far as noteworthy games go, a rematch of the first Super Bowl will occur on Sep. 28 when the Green Bay Packers host the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. On Oct. 11 a rare matchup between two  “America’s Teams” will occur when the Patriots go to Dallas to play the Cowboys. Lastly, a Big Apple showdown will play out on Dec. 6 when the Jets “visit” the Giants.

As far as this week goes, the Washington Redskins host the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver, and the Eagles play the Falcons in Atlanta on Monday night.While Baseball is called America’s Pastime, most would agree that football is America’s favorite sport. Whether you are a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles or the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL brings Americans closer together and unites people no matter their race, class, or region.

On Feb. 7, 2016, Super Bowl Fifty will be played at the home of the San Francisco Forty 49ers. Which teams play in that game is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the real and only question is: who’s ready for some football?

Junior Eric Smiley is a contributing writer. His email is