The football huddle was still unusual enough in the 1920s that it made fans at college games wonder what was going on and led to complaints about the game being slowed down. There are a few different stories about how the huddle originated (in 1918 at Oregon State, in 1921 at the University of Illinois, and in 1924 at Lafayette College are a few of them), but it was first used in the 1890s when Paul Hubbard, the quarterback for Gallaudet—a Deaf college in Washington, D.C., which is now a university—had his offense form a tight circle so that they could discuss plays without the other team seeing what they were signing.
Another Gallaudet football innovation was the giant drum on the sidelines that would be used for the snap count (the players could feel the vibrations), but these days they use a "silent count system, which relies on the sense of touch and a good ol’ hand-to-buttocks tap."
In 2005, the same year Gallaudet abandoned the drum, they also did away with the huddle. Now, the athletes just sign their plays out in the open, since the teams they play now likely don't know sign language anyway. As current coach Chuck Goldstein says,
"My philosophy is if you're going to take the time to learn sign language and be able to interpret what we're doing in 25 seconds, then more power to you," head coach Chuck Goldstein told ESPN in 2013.
This story has been updated for 2020.