While American football can trace its roots back to the mid-1800s, the tradition of the tight, circular huddle began in 1892 to serve a niche purpose.
Because opposing teams stood out of earshot, early football players could strategize plays by simply standing in a loose cluster and speaking in normal voices. This proved problematic for Washington DC’s schools of the deaf and hard of hearing, whose American Sign Language could be interpreted at distance. For that reason, Gallaudet University quarterback Paul Hubbard began “huddling” to hide his hands.
Because it blocks noise and prying eyes, the huddle tradition continues.