What is the Definition of A Fullback in American Football?

The fullback position in American Football is often an unsung hero on the field. Serving a dual role in both the running and passing game, the fullback contributes to a team’s success by providing strong lead blocking and occasionally demonstrating versatile offensive skills. While not typically in the limelight like running backs or wide receivers, fullbacks play a crucial part in maintaining a balanced attack and supporting the team’s offensive strategy.

Historically, fullbacks were predominantly ball carriers responsible for picking up tough yardage. However, as the game of football evolved, so did the responsibilities of the fullback. Nowadays, these players are regarded as crucial components in the offense, particularly in short-yardage situations and as additional blockers for running backs and quarterbacks. Fullbacks not only support the ground game but can be valuable assets in the passing game, too, if called upon.

Key Takeaways

  • Fullbacks contribute to the team’s success by providing lead blocking and showcasing versatile offensive skills
  • The fullback position has evolved from primarily ball carriers to crucial components in various offensive situations
  • Modern fullbacks support both the ground game and passing game, demonstrating the adaptability of their role

Fullback Position Fundamentals

Role on Offense

The fullback position (FB) in American Football is a crucial part of the offensive backfield. The primary responsibility of a fullback is to act as a lead blocker for the running backs and quarterbacks during running plays. This role includes clearing paths and creating space for the ball carrier, allowing them to advance the ball further downfield. Fullbacks are typically larger and stronger than halfbacks, making them effective lead blockers in the offense.

In addition to their blocking duties, fullbacks may also carry the ball on running plays or catch passes during passing plays. Although their involvement in these aspects of the offense may be less prominent than that of halfbacks or wide receivers, fullbacks provide a valuable and versatile option for offensive coordinators.

Role on Special Teams

Fullbacks play an essential role on special teams, often serving as a key contributor in both the kicking and receiving phases of the game. Due to their size and strength, fullbacks are effective blockers for kick and punt returns, creating lanes for return specialists to exploit.

Additionally, fullbacks are often involved in special teams tackling units, as their size and athleticism make them suitable for chasing down the ball carrier. Lastly, fullbacks may also serve as protectors for the kicker or punter during field goal and punt attempts, ensuring that the specialists have ample time and space to execute their kicks.

Historical Evolution

The fullback position in American football has its origins in early rugby football. Over time, the names and roles of various positions have changed significantly, with some positions no longer existing and others being created to fill new roles.

In the early days of American football, the fullback was a key player in the single wing and T formations. The first great fullback was Ernie Nevers, who played for the Duluth Eskimos and Chicago Cardinals from 1926 to 1931. He was named first-team All-Pro in each season and set the standard for future fullbacks with his power running, pass catching, and blocking abilities.

As the sport evolved, so did the fullback’s duties. In most offensive schemes, the fullback became known for a combination of power running, pass catching, and blocking for both the quarterback and the other running back. Fullbacks were typically larger than halfbacks, further distinguishing the two positions.

Today’s fullbacks continue to play a vital role in many offensive schemes, though their duties may vary across different teams and coaching strategies. While the position has evolved over time, the fullback’s primary function remains – to use their physicality and versatility to help their team succeed on the field.

Skills and Athlete Profile

In American Football, a fullback is an important part of the offensive team, performing various tasks on the field. This section will detail the specific skills and athlete profile of a fullback, focusing on their abilities in blocking, running, and catching.


Fullbacks are widely recognized for their blocking abilities. Known for their muscularity and ability to shed tackles, fullbacks act as lead blockers for running backs, helping them advance on the field. Their physical strength is a key attribute in successfully clearing a path for the ball carrier and being an extra blocker on plays needing little yardage to convert to a first down or touchdown.


Although primarily used as blockers, fullbacks also carry the ball on certain plays. As ball carriers, they must possess the strength and tenacity to bounce off tackles and gain tough yardage. Fullbacks are not typically known for their agility or speed but are effective in short-yardage situations. They must also focus on holding onto the football securely while advancing on the field.


In addition to blocking and running, fullbacks have a role in the passing game. Possessing soft hands is vital for a fullback, as they must be able to catch the ball on plays designed to surprise or confuse their opponents. Although not the primary pass-catching target, fullbacks contribute to the offense by providing an additional option for the quarterback in certain game situations.

To summarize, a fullback in American Football has various responsibilities and requires a unique set of skills. Their athlete profile includes muscularity, strength, and tenacity for effective blocking and running, as well as soft hands for catching passes.

Famous Fullbacks

A fullback is a position in the offensive backfield in American football. Fullbacks are tasked with a combination of power, strength, and brute force, enabling their team’s running backs to score touchdowns and claim glory.

Ernie Nevers was the first great fullback. He played for the Duluth Eskimos and Chicago Cardinals from 1926 to 1931 and was named first-team All-Pro in each season.

Larry Centers is considered one of the all-time greatest fullbacks in NFL history. He is remembered as the greatest receiving fullback of all time, with exceptional skills in blocking, running, and catching.

Mike Alstott is another top fullback who played a significant role in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl run. Regarded as the best pure fullback to play the game, he was the heart and soul of the team. His teammates, including Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, and John Lynch, often praised his abilities and contributions.

Throughout history, fullbacks have been integral to their teams’ success. These athletes play a unique role on the field, demonstrating their impressive power and versatility game after game.