Beginning in 1921, just four years after the College’s opening in 1917, the Providence College football team took the field for the first time. Providence played at the Cycledrome and Hendricken Field and sometimes Cranston Stadium playing to crowds that sometimes exceeded 10,000 fans. They had a all-time record 67–86–16. During those years the school had rivals the like of Boston College, Holy Cross, St John's and Rhode Island State. With the coming of the Second World War the college suspended its football program. It was the need for soldiers in World War II that brought the varsity football era at Providence College to an end.
Notable Rhode Island schoolboy footballers played for the Dominicans during their gridiron era in the city. One of the first was All-State Quarterback Joe McGee (Woonsocket High). McGee transferred from Holy Cross and became the Friars first captain in 1921 and again in 1922. He would later coach the Friars from 1933 to 1937. Two-time all-state quarterback Tom "Junie" Bride (Cranston High) had a 60 yard touchdown run for the Friars over the Coast Guard Academy in 1926. He also became back field coach under Joe McGee. Rhode Island State transfer Bill Connor (Technical High) was captain in 1923 and went on to play in the NFL for the Boston Bulldogs and Newark Tornadoes. Leo Smith (Westerly High) was Mr. Varsity at Providence College. He earned an incredible 10 letters and was All-New England and All-East in 1928. Dixie Mathews (Technical High) at end, Joe Gomes (East Providence High) and guard Lou Matthews (Cranston High) followed.