Football Vocabulary

OK, you've been living in this country for some time now, and you've probably noticed that the most popular spectator sport in the United States is football - American football, that is. Oh, sure, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey are still popular, but their seasons are quite long and, to watch them on TV, you have to buy a subscription or search for a streaming service somewhere. Football, on the other hand, has a condensed season (September through January, and the Super Bowl is in February), and ALL of the games, both college and professional, are FREE on network television. College football is on every Saturday all day, and NFL games are on Thursday and Friday nights, and all day on Sundays. I'm sorry...Soccer, I love you, and I mean no disrespect when I say this, but among the top five team sports in the United States, you're dead last.....a very distant 5th place. I'm sorry, but it's true. There, I said it. Good luck. I'm sure things will work out for you in ......every other country in the world?  But I digress. So now, here we are in November - smack dab in the middle of the NFL and the college football seasons, and if you want to be able to have a nice conversation with someone about football, you really should have a basic understanding of the rules, the players, and how to keep score. Therefore, I'll do my best to explain FOOTBALL VOCABULARY.


(I'll focus primarily on offensive positions because those are the ones most people are watching during the game.) 

Quarterback - This is probably the most important player on the team because he's usually the team leader. On the field he leads the offense and tells the players what the next play will be. He has to be able to throw the ball accurately for both short and long passes. He can hand the ball off to another player or he can run with the ball himself. Some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time are Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Johnny Unitas.

Running Back - Running Backs are both fast and powerful. They have to be able to carry the ball around big defensive players who are trying to tackle them. Some of the greatest running backs of all time are Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith.

Wide Receiver - These players are extremely fast. They have to be able to catch the ball from long distance and must have "good hands". They are often tall and thin. Some of the greatest wide receivers of all time are Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Steve Largent, and Michael Irvin.

Slot Receiver - Slot Receivers are usually small, very fast, and very tough. They usually catch the ball while running across the middle of the field.  Some of the greatest slot receivers of all time are Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Larry Fitzgerald, and Eric Decker.

Tight End - Tight Ends are used for blocking other players and for catching the ball. They are among the biggest players on the team, and also must possess "good hands". Some of the greatest tight ends of all time are Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, and Kellen Winslow.

Offensive Linemen - 2 Tackles, 2 Guards, and 1 Center (This is the player who "snaps" the ball to the quarterback between his legs). 

Kicker - This player kicks field goals, extra points, and "kicks off" at the beginning of the game, after halftime, and after his team scores.



Touchdown - (6 points) when the offensive team carries or catches the ball in its opponents' End Zone.

Extra Point (1 point) when the kicker kicks the ball between the uprights after a Touchdown.

Two-point Conversion - (2 points) Rather than settling for one extra point, you can get 2 points for passing or running the ball into the End Zone after a touchdown.

Safety - (2 points) - When an offensive player is tackled in his own end zone, the defensive team scores two points.



Time - The game is divided into four 15-minute quarters, but every game is always much longer than one hour because the clock stops very often throughout the game.

Purpose - The object of the game is to get the ball into your opponent's End Zone and score more points by the end of the game.

Downs - The offensive team has four chances (downs) to move the ball 10 yards. Every time they do, they get four more downs.

Line of Scrimmage - This is where every play begins - with the 11 players from each team on opposite sides of the ball.

Huddle - This is when the players form a circle to discuss the next play.

Offsides - This is when a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.

Flag - The referee throws a yellow flag onto the field when a penalty has occurred.

Fumble - This is when the offensive team drops the ball. 

Interception - This is when the defensive team gains possession of the ball by catching the offensive team's ball.

Turnover - This is when the team with the ball loses possession of it (because of a fumble or interception, for example). 

Tackle - When a defensive player takes the ball carrier to the ground.

Sack - When the quarterback gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

Blitz - When a large number of players rush the quarterback all at the same time.

Bomb - A very long pass.

Hail Mary Pass - a Bomb thrown into the End Zone with a 50/50 chance of success, usually with little or no time on the clock.


I hope this information helps you. And if somebody invites you to watch a football game either live or on TV, go. Go and have fun........and practice your new football vocabulary. 

Also, I highly recommend that you watch this game between the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints. It has EVERYTHING!!! 

Click here to watch.

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