What Do You Need to Play Football?


It is a sport that is both loved and hated--often by the players who are most consumed by it. Football has become the most popular sport in the United States by a wide margin. It is great entertainment for millions on Friday nights, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday nights throughout the fall. But while many people love nothing more than an afternoon in front of the big-screen TV watching football, playing the game is demanding work.


  • Playing the game takes strength, athleticism, courage, toughness and intelligence. All of these skills taken individually will help a player perform well, but when a player combines them with excellent teamwork, the game of football gets taken to a new level. Here's an example. A wide receiver who can run a 4.4 40-meters is being covered by a defensive back who can cover the same distance in 4.6. However, the game of football is not played on a track and the race does not start with the bang of a starter's gun. Instead, the quarterback calls signals and as soon as he receives the snap, the opposing defensive line is trying to put pressure on him. If one of those defensive lineman can get his hands on the quarterback's arm as he follows through with a pass to that speedy wideout, the defensive back can break on the ball and possibly intercept it and take it in for a touchdown. Based on the defensive back's individual skills he couldn't stay with the receiver. But when he gets help from his teammates, he is able to make the play that decides the game.


  • Much is made of the size of football players. Certain offensive linemen check in at 6'6" or larger, often weighing more than 325 pounds. Defensive linemen are in the 6'2" to 6'6" range and will weigh in at 250-to-285 pounds. Running backs can be as small as 195 pounds but may weigh as much as 245 pounds. Quarterbacks can be a bit smaller, but no professional team wants a quarterback less than 6 feet tall. A quarterback who checks in at 6'4" and 225 pounds is considered of average size for the position.


  • While it helps to be big and strong at key positions on the offensive and defensive line, speed and quickness are the great equalizers, particularly at the skill positions of running back and wide receiver. A wide receiver with quickness can use his first step to get away from the defensive back, who may be bigger and stronger and get open. If he's two steps ahead of the defensive back trying to cover him, the other player's advantage in strength will not matter unless he can catch him.


  • While there is no doubt that football can be a violent game and players can suffer serious and possibly devastating injuries, the idea of the game is not to club your opponent into submission. Instead football is a game of skill and intelligence. You want your opponent to think you are going to run with the football when you are about to pass and vice versa. By using misdirection--faking one way and going another--and the vocal inflections of the quarterback, a team with less strength and athleticism can beat one with quite a bit more.

Time Frame

  • A 60-minute college or professional football game takes about three hours. A high school game that lasts 48 minutes on the game clock takes at least 2 1/2 hours. In addition to the work that needs to be done, most teams practice about five days a week during the season. Practice can last from two to three hours per day. During the offseason, players are required to either get in shape or maintain their condition by running and weight training. Top-level football players who are committed to their sport will train about 11 months of the year.

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