halfback (American football)
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A halfback (HB) is an
offensive Offensive may refer to: * Offensive, the former name of the Dutch political party Socialist Alternative (Netherlands), Socialist Alternative * Offensive (military), an attack * Offensive language ** Fighting words or insulting language, words that ...
position in
American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American football field, field with goalposts at each end. ...

American football
, whose duties involve lining up in the
backfield The offensive backfield is the area of an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport Sport pe ...
and carrying the
ball A ball is a round object (usually spherical of a sphere A sphere (from Greek language, Greek —, "globe, ball") is a geometrical object in three-dimensional space Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dimensional s ...
on most
rushing Rushing means a sudden forward motion, or a surge or onslaught. Rushing may refer to: Tactics * Rush (gridiron football), advancing the ball by running on offense, or charging the quarterback or kicker on defense * Human wave attack, an offensive ...
play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity) Play is a range of Motivation#Incentive theories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, intrinsically motivated activities done for recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Play is commonly associated w ...
s, i.e. a
running back A running back (RB) is a member of the offensive backfieldThe offensive backfield is the area of an American football field behind the line of scrimmage. The offensive backfield can also refer to members of American football positions#Offense, ...
. When the principal ball carrier lines up deep in the backfield, and especially when that player is placed behind another player (usually a
blocking Blocking may refer to: Science, technology, and mathematics Computing and telecommunications *Blacklist (computing) *Blocking (computing), holding up a task until an event occurs *Blocking probability, for calls in a telecommunications system *H ...
back), as in the
I formation The I formation is one of the most common offensive formations in American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleve ...

I formation
, that player is instead referred to as a tailback. Sometimes the halfback can catch the ball from the backfield on short passing plays as they are an
eligible receiver In gridiron football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass: only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and only an eligible receiver may advance beyond the Neutral zone (gridiron football), neutra ...
. Occasionally, they line up as additional
wide receiver A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, historically a split end, is an eligible receiver in gridiron football. A key skill position of the offense (American football), offense, WR gets its name from the player being split out "wi ...

wide receiver
s. When not running or catching the ball, the primary responsibility of a halfback is to aid the offensive linemen in blocking, either to protect the quarterback or another player carrying the football.


History


Overview

Before the emergence of the
T-formation In American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American football field, field with ...
in the 1940s, all members of the offensive backfield were legitimate threats to run or pass the ball. Most teams used four offensive backs on every play: a
quarterback The quarterback (commonly abbreviated "QB"), colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in gridiron football Gridiron football,
quarterback
, two halfbacks, and a fullback. The quarterback began each play a quarter of the way back, the halfbacks began each play side by side and halfway back, and the fullback began each play the farthest back. Historically, from the 1870s through the 1950s, the halfback position was both an offensive and defensive position. Now that most offensive formations have only one or two
running back A running back (RB) is a member of the offensive backfieldThe offensive backfield is the area of an American football field behind the line of scrimmage. The offensive backfield can also refer to members of American football positions#Offense, ...
s, the original designations do not mean as much, as the fullback is now usually a lead blocker (technically a halfback), while the halfback or tailback (called such because he stands at the "tail" of the I) lines up behind the fullback. There has also been a shift in most offense's dependence on halfbacks, as the quarterback is now generally considered the most essential part of a team. However, the average output of the halfback has not changed. In the related sport of
Canadian football Canadian football () is a sport Sport pertains to any form of competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other ...

Canadian football
, halfback is usually a
defensive Defense or defence may refer to: Tactical, martial, and political acts or groups * Defense (military), forces primarily intended for warfare * Civil defense, the organizing of civilians to deal with enemy attacks * Defense industry, industry whic ...
rather than offensive position since the 1980s, though used to also refer to an
offensive Offensive may refer to: * Offensive, the former name of the Dutch political party Socialist Alternative (Netherlands), Socialist Alternative * Offensive (military), an attack * Offensive language ** Fighting words or insulting language, words that ...
position similar to a
slotback Slotback, sometimes referred to as an A-back or "slot receiver," is a position in gridiron football Gridiron football,spread offense :''"Spread offense" may also refer to the four corners offense The four corners offense, technically four corner stall, is an offensive strategy for stalling in basketball. Four players stand in the corners of the offensive half-court while the fi ...
and the
hurry-up offense The hurry-up offense is an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American foot ...
change the halfback's role but create more opportunity for these plays. The spread, the hurry-up, and the
pro-style offense A pro-style offense in American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American footba ...
s dominate American football but the "smash-mouth" style of play is far from extinct. A power-running scheme is often utilized to counter an effective Spread attack, as it allows a team to control the clock and keep the ball out of the opposing offense's control. This strategy is utilized in NFL, college, and all other forms of American football. The need for "power backs" is very prevalent, alongside the need for "scat backs", and anything in between. In the past few decades the role of the halfback has gone through a great shift as most offensive game plans are now fueled by creativity and finesse instead of raw force. Stamina and durability is more important than ever in the hurry-up offense. On the other hand, speed is often valued over strength, and pass-catching ability is sometimes valued over blocking proficiency. Power was once the most desired trait in a halfback, but has been over taken by the need for a diverse skill set. In the last few decades the running back's individual share of offensive output has declined as quarterbacks are generally treated as the cornerstone of the offense. The demands of an up-tempo offense also favor a multiple running back system. While the timeline differs for individual each player, running backs generally hit their peak between the ages of 22 and 28. A study conducted by Apex Fantasy Leagues concluded that about 84 percent of peak seasons fall within that range.


Smash mouth football

From the dawn of American football through the 1880s most offensive schemes focused on the running game. In a running based game plan the halfback was typically the cornerstone of the offense. This system focused on a physical run attack concentrated in the inside of the field, and therefore depended on a skilled "power back." There were no forward passes, and pure speed took a backseat to tackle-breaking and
bucking Bucking is a movement performed by an animal in which it lowers its head and raises its hindquarters into the air while kicking out with the hind legs. It is most commonly seen in herbivores such as equine Equinae is a of the , which have li ...
ability. There was a focus on physicality over finesse, as this type of playing style earned the moniker of "smash mouth" football. Back
Willie Heston William Martin Heston (September 9, 1878 – September 9, 1963) was an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of ...

Willie Heston
of
Fielding Yost Fielding Harris Yost (; April 30, 1871 – August 20, 1946) was an American football player, coach and college athletics administrator. He served as the head football coach at: Ohio Wesleyan University, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Univer ...

Fielding Yost
's "point-a-minute"
Michigan Michigan () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...
team has been acknowledged as the first to play at what later was designated as the tailback position on offense. Prior to Heston, left halfbacks ran plays in one direction, and right halfbacks ran plays in the other direction. Because of Heston's speed and agility, Yost placed Heston in the tailback position so that he could carry the ball on plays to either side of the line. Heston's charging ability and open-field running have also been credited with leading to the origin of the " seven man line and a diamond on defense." Minnesota's
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coaching staff of
Henry L. Williams Henry Lane Williams (July 26, 1869 – June 14, 1931) was an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven playe ...

Henry L. Williams
and
Pudge Heffelfinger {{Orphan, date=May 2020 Pudge is a nickname of various people: * Carlton Fisk Carlton Ernest Fisk (born December 26, 1947), nicknamed "Pudge" and "The Commander", is an American former professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseb ...

Pudge Heffelfinger
devised the strategy in 1903 to stop Heston. Minnesota had previously used the then-traditional nine-man line with the fullback backing up the line and a safety man down the field. Heffelfinger suggested that the halfbacks be pulled out of the line and stationed behind the tackles, thus requiring Heston to break through an initial seven-man line and a secondary line consisting of the fullback and two halfbacks. Known as the ''
Minnesota shift The Minnesota shift is an old American football offensive maneuver that was a forerunner of other Shift (gridiron football), shifts and pre-snap formation changes in the game. It consists of a sudden switch into a new offensive formation immediatel ...
'', the formation became a standard practice. In 1936,
Arch Ward Archie Burdette Ward (December 27, 1896 – July 9, 1955) was an American journalist who served as sports editor for the ''Chicago Tribune The ''Chicago Tribune'' is a daily newspaper based in Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , im ...
credited Heston with leading to one of the "noteworthy transitions" in football history. The sport's first triple threat,
Bradbury Robinson Bradbury Norton Robinson Jr. (February 1, 1884 – March 7, 1949) was a pioneering American football player, physician, nutritionist, conservationist and local politician. He played college football at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Unive ...
of
St. Louis University Saint Louis University (SLU) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of ...
, ran, passed, received and punted out of the halfback position. It was as a halfback that Robinson threw the first legal
forward pass In several forms of football Football is a family of team sport A team is a [group (disambiguation), group of individuals (human or non-human) working together to achieve their goal. As defined by Professor Leigh Thompson (academic), ...
to teammate Jack Schneider in a game at Carroll University, Carroll College on September 5, 1906. Halfback Jim Thorpe rushed for some 2,000 yards in 1912 as a member of the 1912 Carlisle Indians football team, Carlisle Indians. In 1928,
Ken Strong Elmer Kenneth Strong (April 21, 1906 – October 5, 1979) was an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes ...
accounted for some 3,000 yards.
Don Hutson Donald Montgomery Hutson (January 31, 1913 – June 26, 1997) was an American professional football Football is a family of s that involve, to varying degrees, a to score a . Unqualified, normally means the form of football that is ...
, one of the sport's first great receivers, had his passes in college tossed by halfback
Dixie Howell Millard Fleming "Dixie" Howell (November 24, 1912 – March 2, 1971) was an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two te ...
.


Characteristics of a halfback


Running

No position in American football can perform his duties successfully without the help of other players. Like the wide receiver, who generally cannot make big plays without the quarterback passing to him (with the exception of the
end-around The end-around is a play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity) Play is a range of Motivation#Incentive theories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, intrinsically motivated activities done for recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Pl ...
play), the halfback needs good blocking from the offensive line and fullback to successfully gain yardage. Also, a halfback will generally have more rushing attempts than a receiver will have receptions. This is mainly because most football teams have one primary halfback to receive most of the carries, while successful passes will generally be spread between a number of different receivers (wide receivers, tight ends, running backs). The ability to protect the football on the run is the principal skill required of a running back. For an offense to succeed the ball has to be protected, and defensive attempts at stripping the ball will largely occur during runs on the inside of the playing field. Halfbacks are expected to have good on-field "vision" in that they can identify open lanes on the field to run through. Hall-of-Famer
Emmitt Smith Emmitt James Smith III (born May 15, 1969) is a former American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven player ...

Emmitt Smith
of the
Dallas Cowboys The Dallas Cowboys are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport Sport p ...

Dallas Cowboys
and
Le'Veon Bell Le'Veon Andrew Bell Sr. ( ; born February 18, 1992) is an American football running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Michigan State Spartans football, Michigan State and was ...
of the
Kansas City Chiefs The Kansas City Chiefs are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectang ...

Kansas City Chiefs
, for example, are renowned for their patient running styles and ability to quickly identify lanes created by blockers, despite not being known for their speed.


Receiving

In addition to skill at running the ball, some halfbacks in the
National Football League The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any s ...
are known for their skill at catching passes. In the 1970s,
Minnesota Vikings The Minnesota Vikings are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport Sport ...
running back
Chuck Foreman Walter Eugene "Chuck" Foreman (born October 26, 1950) is a retired American football running back who played for the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots in the National Football League. Considered one of the best passing-catching backs ...

Chuck Foreman
was one of the first halfbacks to establish himself as an elite threat in the receiving game. Foreman caught over 50 passes in four out of five seasons from 1974 to 1978, including a league leading 73 receptions in 1975. The role of the halfback as a receiver out of the backfield has expanded greatly in the NFL over the years, and a versatile halfback who provides his team with running and pass-catching abilities is highly valued. On passing plays, a halfback will often run a safe route, such as a hook, creating a safe target for a quarterback to throw to if all other receivers are covered. The increase in demand for halfbacks with good receiving abilities can be attributed to the rise in popularity of the West Coast offense and its variants, which often requires its halfbacks to catch passes on a regular basis. A great early example of a system that combined accomplished rushing skills with receiving ability is the offense of the
San Francisco 49ers The San Francisco 49ers (also written as the San Francisco Forty Niners) are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport ...
of the 1980s and 1990s under Bill Walsh and
George Seifert George Gerald Seifert (born January 22, 1940) is an American former American football, football coach and player. He served as the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers and the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). Seifert ow ...
. Their teams featured two
Pro Bowl The Pro Bowl is the all-star game of the National Football League (NFL). From the AFL–NFL Merger, merger with the rival American Football League (AFL) in 1970 up through 2013 and since 2017, it is officially called the AFC–NFC Pro Bowl, match ...
running backs who also had excellent receiving skills in Roger Craig and
Ricky Watters Richard “Ricky” James Watters (born April 7, 1969) is an American former professional American football, football player who was a running back for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Seattle Seahawks of the National Football L ...

Ricky Watters
. Craig became the first player in NFL history to both rush and receive more than 1,000 yards in a season. Currently
Marshall Faulk Marshall William Faulk (born February 26, 1973) is a former American football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and History of the St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Rams. He played c ...

Marshall Faulk
is one of the top 20 pass catchers in NFL history. A good example of a dual threat running and pass-catching halfback is
LaDainian Tomlinson LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson (born June 23, 1979) is an American former professional American football, football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for 11 seasons. He is widely considered one of the greatest runn ...
; in 2003, while with the
San Diego Chargers The professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport Sport pertains to any form of ...
, Tomlinson rushed for 1,645 yards and caught 100 passes for 725 yards, giving him 2,370 total yards from the line of scrimmage, and he became the first NFL player ever to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in a season. Some teams have a halfback who is more skilled at catching short passes than the starting halfback on the team, and/or is better at pass blocking or "picking up the blitz" than that of the other backs. Known as a "third down" back, he is often put in the game in third down and long situations where a pass is needed to pick up a first down. He can also be used to fool the defense by making them think he is being put into the game for a pass play, when the play is actually a run.
Darren Sproles Darren Lee Sproles (born June 20, 1983) is an American football executive and former running back and return specialist who is currently a personnel consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL). He played college ...
was one of the most prominent examples of a "third down" back. While never considered a workhorse back partly due to his diminutive 5'6" stature, Sproles was effective due to his elusiveness and ability to catch and block, enjoying a 14-year career with over 4,800 career receiving yards as a result. Current examples of these third down backs include
Tarik Cohen Tarik Cohen (born July 26, 1995) is an American football running back for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL). Cohen played the same position for North Carolina A&T Aggies football, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical Sta ...

Tarik Cohen
of the
Chicago Bears The Chicago Bears are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport Sport pe ...

Chicago Bears
, of the
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, of the
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and of the
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.


Blocking

Halfbacks are also required to help the offensive line in passing situations, and, in the case of the fullback, running plays. Halfbacks will often block blitzing linebackers or safeties on passing plays when the offensive line is occupied with the defensive linemen. On running plays, the fullback will often attempt to create a hole in the defensive line for the halfback to run through. Effective blocking backs are usually key components for a running back's success (as seen in LaDainian Tomlinson record-breaking season in 2006).


Physical characteristics

There is a great diversity in those who play at the running back position. At one extreme are smaller, faster players. These fast, agile, and elusive running backs are often called "scat backs" because their low center of gravity and maneuverability allow them to dodge tacklers. Hall-of-famer
Barry Sanders Barry Sanders (born July 16, 1968) is an American former professional American football, football player who was a running back for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). A Pro Bowl invitee in each of his ten NFL seasons and ...

Barry Sanders
, Chris Johnson, and
LeSean McCoy LeSean Kamel McCoy (born July 12, 1988), nicknamed "Shady", is a former American football running back. He played college football at Pittsburgh Panthers football, Pittsburgh and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the ...

LeSean McCoy
exemplified this running style. "Scat backs" still active in the NFL include
Saquon Barkley Saquon Barkley ( ; born February 9, 1997) is an American football running back for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Penn State Nittany Lions football, Penn State for three seasons. He tota ...

Saquon Barkley
of the
New York Giants The New York Giants are a professional American football team based in the New York metropolitan area. The Giants compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) NFC East, East ...

New York Giants
,
Tevin Coleman Tevin Ford Coleman (born April 16, 1993) is an American football running back for the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played college football ...

Tevin Coleman
of the
New York Jets The New York Jets are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangula ...
,
Christian McCaffrey Christian Jackson McCaffrey (born June 7, 1996) is an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players ...

Christian McCaffrey
of the
Carolina Panthers The Carolina Panthers are a professional American football team based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers compete in the National Football League (NFL), as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) NFC South, South ...

Carolina Panthers
and
Alvin Kamara Alvin Mentian Kamara (born July 25, 1995) is an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a r ...

Alvin Kamara
of the
New Orleans Saints The New Orleans Saints are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectan ...

New Orleans Saints
. This type of running back has grown in demand due to changes in offensive play calling, style, and tempo. The trending spread offense demands a player that can utilize open space as much as possible as run blockers are sacrificed to spread out the defense. At the other extreme are "power backs": bigger, stronger players who can break through tackles using brute strength and raw power. They are usually (but not always) slower runners compared to other backs, and typically run straight ahead (or "North-and-South" in football terminology) rather than dodging to the outside edges of the playing field (i.e. running "East-and-West") like shorter, quicker, lighter backs will often do. Power backs from previous generations such as
Jim Brown James Nathaniel Brown (born February 17, 1936) is a former American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven p ...

Jim Brown
and
Larry Csonka Larry Richard Csonka (; born December 25, 1946) is a former professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams ...
were often classified as fullbacks, but halfbacks such as
Jerome Bettis Jerome Abram Bettis Sr. (born February 16, 1972) is a former American football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 seasons, primarily with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nicknamed "The Bus" for his large size and runn ...
and
Steven Jackson Steven Rashad Jackson (born July 22, 1983) is a former American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven play ...

Steven Jackson
also exemplify the power back position. More recent examples include
Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Terrell Lynch (born April 22, 1986) is a former American football running back and actor who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 12 seasons. Nicknamed "Beast Mode" for his powerful running style, he spent the majority of his ...
,
LeGarrette Blount LeGarrette Montez Blount (; born December 5, 1986) is a former American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven ...

LeGarrette Blount
,
Frank Gore Franklin Gore Sr. (born May 14, 1983) is an American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport S ...

Frank Gore
of the
New York Jets The New York Jets are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangula ...
,
Leonard Fournette Leonard Joseph Fournette III (born January 18, 1995) is an American football running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at LSU Tigers football, LSU, and was drafted by the Jacksonv ...

Leonard Fournette
of the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a professional American football team based in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) NFC South, South divisio ...
and
Derrick Henry Derrick Lamar Henry Jr. (born January 4, 1994) is an American football running back for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). His imposing rushing game and larger stature than the average running back earned him the nicknam ...

Derrick Henry
of the
Tennessee Titans The Tennessee Titans are a professional American football team based in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference (AFC) AFC South, South division, and pla ...
. For many years the “power” running back was the central component of an offense. In that time period formations and rhythm favored this type of player. This sort of offensive scheme is now a rarity, as “power backs” take on supporting roles behind faster and more versatile running backs. In the modern age, an “every-down” halfback has to have a combination of running ability, pass-catching ability, and blocking ability. The "every-down" designation comes from a running back's ability to perform important functions beyond rushing on the ever-increasing number of passing plays such as receiving the ball and pass-blocking for their quarterback. A primary running back also needs abundant stamina to remain consistent in an up-tempo offense. Backs such as
Walter Payton Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954 – November 1, 1999) was an American professional football Football is a family of team sport A team is a [group (disambiguation), group of individuals (human or non-human) working together to ach ...
and
Emmitt Smith Emmitt James Smith III (born May 15, 1969) is a former American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven player ...

Emmitt Smith
were appraised for their versatile running styles and abilities. More recent examples include Adrian Peterson of the Detroit Lions, Todd Gurley of the Atlanta Falcons and Melvin Gordon of the Denver Broncos.


Goal line backs

Many teams also have a halfback designated as a "goal line back" or "short yardage specialist". This halfback comes into the game in short yardage situations when the offense needs only one to five yards to get a first down. They also come into the game when the offense nears the goal-line. Normally when an offense gets inside the 5-yard line they send in their goal-line formation which usually includes eight blockers, a quarterback, a halfback, and a fullback. The closer they are to the goal-line the more likely they are to use this formation. If a certain halfback is used often near the goal-line he is called the goal-line back. Short yardage and goal-line backs are usually larger power backs that are not prone to fumbling. Their job is to get the first down or touchdown by muscling through or pushing a large mass of players that are being blocked without dropping the ball.


Special teams

A halfback might be called upon to return
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s and kickoffs on special teams. Although this is most often done by
wide receiver A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, historically a split end, is an eligible receiver in gridiron football. A key skill position of the offense (American football), offense, WR gets its name from the player being split out "wi ...

wide receiver
s and
defensive back In gridiron football Gridiron football,"Gridiron football"
''Encyclopæ ...
s, such as
cornerback A cornerback (CB) is a members of the defensive back In gridiron football, defensive backs (DBs), also called the secondary, are the players on the defensive side of the ball who play farthest back from the line of scrimmage. They are distin ...

cornerback
s (because they are generally the fastest players on the team), some halfbacks have enough speed and talent to perform this role. The NFL's current all-time leading in kickoff return yards (14,014 yards) and punt return yards (4,999) by a halfback is Brian Mitchell. He also gained 1,967 rushing yards, 2,336 receiving yards, and 15 fumble return yards, giving him a total of 23,330 all-purpose yards, the second most in NFL history behind
Jerry Rice Jerry Lee Rice Sr. (born October 13, 1962) is a former American football, football wide receiver who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 21 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, and Denver Broncos ...

Jerry Rice
. A halfback, typically a back-up, can also play
upback In American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American football field, field with go ...
, which is a blocking back who lines up approximately 1–3 yards behind the line of scrimmage in punting situations and usually receive snaps on a
fake punt A fake punt is a trick play in American football. Simply, it involves a running or passing play run out of a Punt (American football), punt formation.e. g. http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/14477861/how-dabo-swinney-risky-fake-punt-b ...
.


Passing

On rare occasions, and in the early days of the sport, a halfback is asked to throw the ball when running a HB option.Halfback option play
at football.com.
This play is generally referred to as a half-back pass, regardless if the player throwing the football is a tailback or fullback. This play is risky because most halfbacks are inexperienced passers, and so it is often run only by certain halfbacks more skilled at passing than most. The halfback can also throw the ball while running a direct snap play where the center snaps the ball to halfback directly. This has become particular in teams that use the
Wildcat formation Wildcat formation describes a formation Formation may refer to: Linguistics * Back-formation, the process of creating a new lexeme by removing or affixes * Word formation, the creation of a new word by adding affixes Mathematics and science * Ca ...
, most prominently the
Miami Dolphins The Miami Dolphins are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular ...

Miami Dolphins
, where running back
Ronnie Brown Ronnie G. Brown Jr. (born December 12, 1981) is a former American football running back. After graduating from Cartersville High School in Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia, Brown attended Auburn University to play college football for the Auburn T ...

Ronnie Brown
would run, pass, and receive out of this set.


See also

*
Halfback (Canadian football) The halfback in Canadian football Canadian football () is a sport Sport pertains to any form of competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. ...


References


External links


Football 101: Basic Football positions
{{American football positions American football positions