Fullback (gridiron football)

Example of fullback positioning in the "I-Form" offense.

A fullback (FB) is a position in the offensive backfield in American and Canadian football, and is one of the two running back positions along with the halfback. Typically, fullbacks are larger than halfbacks and in most offensive schemes their duties are split between power running, pass catching, and blocking for both the quarterback and the other running back.[1]

Many great runners in the history of American football have been fullbacks, including Jim Brown, Marion Motley, Jim Taylor, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, John Riggins, Christian Okoye, and Levi Jackson. However, many of these runners would retroactively be labeled as halfbacks, due to their position as the primary ball carrier; they were primarily listed as fullbacks due to their size and did not often perform the run-blocking duties expected of modern fullbacks. Examples of players who have excelled at the hybrid running-blocking-pass catching role include Mike Alstott, Daryl Johnston, and Lorenzo Neal.

History

In the days before two platoons, the fullback was usually the team's punter and drop kicker.[2] When at the beginning of the 20th century, a penalty was introduced for hitting the opposing kicker after a kick, the foul was at first called "running into the fullback", inasmuch as the deepest back usually did the kicking.[3]

Before the emergence of the T-formation in the 1940s, most teams used four offensive backs, lined up behind the offensive line, on every play: a quarterback, two halfbacks, and a fullback. The quarterback began each play a quarter of the way "back" behind the offensive line, the halfbacks began each play side by side and halfway "back" behind the offensive line, and the fullback began each play the farthest "back" behind the offensive line. Each offensive back was known by a position name that described his relative distance behind the offensive line.

As the quarterback was typically the offensive back who first touched the ball after the snap, quarterbacks were the offensive back most likely to pass the ball, although any eligible player may do so. As the game evolved and alternate formations came in and out of fashion, halfbacks (reduced to typically just one rather than two) emerged as the offensive back most likely to run the ball, although, again, any eligible player may do so. "Halfback" came to be synonymous with "running back". Fullbacks were primarily used as blocking backs with only occasional ball carrying duties. As formations began to favor placing the blocking back ahead of/ closer to the line of scrimmage than the running back, these blocking backs retained the name "fullback" even though they were closer to the offensive line than the halfback. "Fullback" became a misnomer, and the term "halfback" declined in usage, replaced variously with the more descriptive term "tailback" or the generic term "running back".

In the modern game, when the quarterback is under center, the fullback most often lines up directly behind the quarterback and in front of the halfback or tailback. The fullback position has seen a decline in recent time, with only 17 full time fullbacks playing in 2016. The trend can be traced back to teams choosing to pass more, the use of the 11 personnel, and the use of h-backs.[4]

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