What Does Redshirt Freshman Mean In Football?

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

It’s common to hear the word ‘redshirt” when turning on a college game. Often, the announcer will talk about how the player is a redshirt sophomore or a redshirt freshman. What does redshirt mean?

A redshirt freshman means the college athlete needs to sit out for a year while remaining with the team. They don’t play any games, but they practice with the team. Players will redshirt to learn the team’s system and plays, while not losing any eligibility.

In this article, we will show you why players will redshirt and the benefits of redshirting in football.

Why Do Players Get Redshirted In College?

It is widespread for college football players to redshirt. When coaches recruit players, they need to fill certain positions on the roster.

The reason why coaches will ask players to redshirt is to practice with the team without losing a year of eligibility.

If the player plays in 4 or more games (depending on the league), they may lose their eligibility. To get around this, colleges agreed to allow players to redshirt.

For instance, if the team has 5 quarterbacks on the roster, the coach may recruit a player they think will be a perfect fit for their team. However, if their current quarterback is a junior, they know that the recruited quarterback may not play for 2 years.

Instead of wasting a year of his eligibility, coaches will redshirt the freshman and not lose any playing time.

They also benefit from being on the team, as they will practice and do everything a football player does, except play in games.

What Do Redshirt Freshman & Redshirt Sophomore Mean?

When a player redshirts their first year, they will always have the tag “redshirt” in front of their grade status. This means that they redshirted their first year (or at some point in their college career).

For example, if a player goes to a college and they redshirt their first year, their second year at the college will be their redshirt freshman year. Their next year will be their redshirt sophomore year, and so on.

Players will not be able to lose their redshirt tag, as it will follow them throughout college. Again, this isn’t bad; it’s just a label a coach will put on you so that other coaches (and media members) know how long you’ve been in the program.

What Are The Benefits Of Redshirting?

If you’re a player, the benefit is growth and development. In sports like football, schemes, and systems can get very complicated. Coaches will often redshirt players to make sure that the system is taught properly to the player.

This also helps them because they don’t have to waste a year of eligibility trying to learn the system on the fly.

Coaches will often meet and decide to redshirt a player if it’s best for the team. Often teams will elect not to redshirt a player and have them compete for a position.

Medical Redshirt

Another type of redshirt is the medical redshirt. The medical redshirt was put in place to help out athletes who got hurt during the season.

If a player has a catastrophic injury such as an ACL tear, they may be eligible for a medical redshirt. If the player has played less than half of their season (check with your trainer or league administrator for your league’s rules, it varies), then a player may be eligible for a medical redshirt.

A medical redshirt will essentially void the season they’re currently in, allowing the player to have another year.

For example, if a player is in their senior year and has a season-ending injury during game 2. A player may apply for a medical redshirt. If granted, the player will be able to replay their senior year the next year.

The medical redshirt gives opportunities to those who lose their season to a season-ending injury.

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Is Redshirting Bad?

If a player is a redshirt, it does not mean that they are bad. Plenty of players have redshirted in their careers. It’s a strategic move to ensure that they can get the most out of the player they are recruiting.

Many coaches will tell you about players they have on their team that is redshirting. They may ask if you have any players that could benefit from a redshirt season.

If you have a young player who will not play this year, try and convince him to redshirt. It’s a great way for players to learn the system and work on their technique without losing playing time.

Talk to the coach about the benefits of redshirting if you have a talented player coming up in his senior season. It may be worth it for him to play another year without losing playing time or eligibility as he works his way into the starting lineup next year.


Learning about why and how players redshirt is just the beginning. Learn more about the actual game of football itself with our in-depth guides and Ultimate Football Guide below.

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About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.