The Center Position in Football: An In-Depth Guide

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

Centers are both the underdog of their offensive line counterparts – and the brains behind the entire operation of the offensive line unit. Centers often find their way to the position being a little less naturally gifted than the guards and tackles positioned to their left and right.

Usually a bit undersized, or a step slower, centers make up for this with a combination of high football IQ and gritty style of play that allows them to be the leader up front for the offense.

What is a center in football

Coaches talk a lot about their great players being extensions of coaches on the field, and centers have to be exactly that. The offensive line’s duty is much less fixated than that of skill players such as the running backs and wide receivers. They have calls in place, but ones that vary completely on the look that the defense shows on each and every play, whether it is a run or pass play. This is where the center comes in – as it falls on him to be the lead communicator and direct traffic for each and every play.

The physical demands of the center position are plenty to speak of as well in their own right. Snapping the football, executing blocks in the trenches, and working up to linebackers are all part of the gig for the center position. Below will uncover even further the detailed demands of the position, and the crucial role the position plays in the success of an offense.

What does a Center do in Football?

As the team gets up to the line of scrimmage, it is the job of the center to direct his offensive line counterparts in the right direction to execute the play. He must be prepared to call out pass protections, identify the middle linebacker, and ensure the OL is on track in the run game to block the correct defenders.

He has no choice but to be an extremely vocal leader, taking responsibility to put the offense in successful spots. As offenses go faster and faster in today’s game of football, the center must be a quick decision maker, which comes with intense film work, and deep studies of opposing defenses heading into each game. All of this shows the high-level parts of the job the center possesses before the play even begins.

Moving to the physical elements of the job, the center is tasked with snapping the ball every play, getting the ball safely back to the quarterback, and immediately being prepared to go toe to toe against heavy interior defensive lineman. Whether it’s working a combination block up to linebacker level, occasionally pulling as a lead blocker, or picking up blitzes in pass protection, the center must be both athletic and strong enough to battle all game long against opposing defenses.

Why is it called Center?

The name speaks for itself in this situation. The center is located in the “center” of the offensive line, with two offensive linemen lined up to both his left and right side on each given play.

What are some other names for the Center Position?

There aren't a lot of other popular nicknames for the center position in football, but they are sometimes referred to as the quarterbacks of the offensive line, since they have to make a lot of calls and "direct traffic" so to speak with the other four men at the line of scrimmage.

Abbreviation: C

What are the Skills and Body Type needed to play the Center in Football?

Football IQ
Shotgun and Under-Center Snapping

Not all offensive lineman can be a center due to the mental demands of the position. Centers possess high-level football knowledge and leadership within the offensive line unit.

Body Type (General Estimate)
Height: 6’1-6’4
Weight: 310-325 Pounds
Build: Thick, Compact

Centers tend to be a bit undersized and less athletic compared to the offensive line. They often make up for this with more of a compact build combined with toughness and physicality.

Who are some of the best Centers ever?

Jim Otto (1960-1974) - Never missing a game in his 210 game career, Otto was a staple up front for the Oakland Raiders franchise. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Otto is known to this day for his play at the center position.

Mike Webster (1974-1990) - A 4-time Super Bowl champion, Webster helped lead the Steelers to a dominant stretch in the mid-1970’s.

Why is the Center so important in football?

The center is the quarterback of the offensive line, one of the most crucial offensive football positions, a decision maker that the other 4 offensive lineman in his unit look to in order to effectively get the job done. Tasked with leading his unit, snapping the football, and handling big defensive lineman, his role is not one that should be overlooked. The center’s role is vital, and plays a huge part in helping his offensive line unit get in a groove each game to both protect the quarterback, and find success on the ground in the run game.

While all offensive lineman are best friends of the quarterback, the center and quarterback must possess a trust in one another to help the offense find success each week. When the quarterback and center are on the same page, and seeing things in the same manner, the offense will be undoubtedly in position to look to score a lot of points against opposing defenses.

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