What Is A Fullback In Football? Explained

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: January 11, 2024

Depending on the coach’s scheme, running backs and wide receivers are often referred to by different names. These names are frequently tagged with “backs” on their end, signifying they are behind the quarterback in some fashion.

A fullback is a player who lines up directly behind the quarterback. This player is used for blocking and running the ball in short-yardage situations. The fullback is often a shorter, muscular player who blocks well in the middle.

Backs, such as the fullback, are often responsible for carrying, blocking, and catching the football. The fullback, in particular, has slowly started to make its way out of football as teams are moving more toward spread offenses that eliminate the fullback position.

This article will cover the different types of backs that are often used in football.

While we’re going through the different names of the backs, it’s important to note that most of these names have been made up by coaches who may identify other backs in different ways.

This is strictly a guide for each position’s most commonly used names. They may change based on the coach’s system.

Fullback Position In Football

The fullback in football gets its name because it is behind or “back” of the quarterback. This player often gets the football and runs or catches a short pass out of the backfield.

The fullback is often seen as the player that lines up between the quarterback and the running back. This player is usually responsible for multiple tasks.

Fullback Runs

The fullback position is responsible for carrying the football. They are often handed the football in short yardage situations.

A typical offensive scheme will use the fullback to carry the football when they need to waste the clock or for a quick fullback dive to gain 2-3 yards.

It’s hard to tackle fullbacks because they are so big and strong, that’s why this body type is recommended for the position.

Players like Mike Alstott are a good example of the perfect fullback body type.

Pass Catching Fullback

The fullback position is also used as a pass catcher on play action passes.

Most NFL teams will fake the ball to the running back, then throw the ball to the fullback into the flat. The fullback will bluff the block as a lead blocker and run their route. This type of play is common in West Coast offenses.

This is what a fullback looks like when watching a professional game, lining up between the running back (last person on the left) and the quarterback.

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The fullback is rarely used in the spread offense. As teams move to more 4 and 5 receiver sets, there’s no more use to having a thick, stalky player who can block linebackers.

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Lead Blocker

Fullbacks are commonly used in offensive schemes that use “I formations,” as their philosophy is to run the football.

Fullbacks are great as a lead blocker, to block linebackers and defensive ends in space. They are considered more athletic players than the offensive line, so the modern game uses their skills in space.

They can be seen lead blocking for running backs on iso and power plays up the middle of the field. The fullback’s job is to make sure there is a hole for the running back to run into.

However, they’re not so great in spread formations. They are easily covered by nickelbacks and often don’t serve a purpose in the spread passing game.

The fullback position is rarely used in professional, college, and high school football.

Variations Of The Fullback

Wing Back

The wing-back is often referred to as the running back that lines up on the offensive line’s edge, often facing the quarterback.

The wing-back is common in most “wing-T” and double wing formations that move in slow motion before the play. This player often acts as a decoy or will receive the ball on a power sweep.

“Wings,” as they’re often referred to, play an essential role in offenses that rely on speed to get to the perimeter. Here’s a picture of a wing-back in a standard formation. Here’s a visual of what a wing-back looks like:

If you notice, the two white players on the outsides face each other; those are the wing-backs in this particular instance.

Half Back

Referencing the picture above again, Halfbacks can also be referenced as wing-backs. The team that uses three running backs will often name the running back behind the quarterback as their “fullback,” The two wings on the side can also be called halfbacks.

As mentioned, this is entirely up to the coach’s discretion, and decides to name the players in his formation.

In an I-formation, halfbacks can also be named for players who stand directly behind the fullback. Coaches will call this player a halfback, standing behind the fullback.

Slot Back

A slotback is a player who often lines up in the “slot” position. The slot position is usually between the widest wide receiver and the offensive tackle. This is also known as a “slot receiver.”

The slotback is typically able to catch the football from the quarterback but can also run the football on jet/fly sweeps across the field.

These players are often smaller and quicker as they must run away from speedier defensive players.

H-Back

Last, the H-back is a new and emerging position that’s starting to show up in many spread offenses. The H-back is a mix between a wide receiver and an offensive lineman.

What makes the H-back special is their size and ability to create mismatches with linebackers.

For example, Rob Gronkowski, a former New England Patriot great, was an H-back. He’s a player who could line up in the backfield to lead block, catch passes, and block a defensive lineman.

H-backs, as mentioned, are often taller, more physical players. Rob Gronkowski measured in at 6’6, 265 pounds.

In most offenses, H-backs are just another name for a tight end. However, this player is skilled athletically and can line up anywhere on the field.

H-backs play a valuable role in running plays like split zone, or wham plays.

Keep Learning

The fullback is a key player for teams who run a more traditional type of power offense. The best fullbacks are players who aren’t afraid of contact and are athletic enough to run the football.

In today’s game, it’s rare to see a fullback on the field, because the tight end position has taken over. Players like Larry Csonka and John Riggins are very rare to see nowadays.

If you enjoyed learning about the fullback position, we recommend you check out our Beginners Guide To Football below. It will help you grow your football IQ.

The Ultimate Football Guide

Why spend hours on Google and YouTube trying to learn football yourself? We’ve created a simple guide to help make you the smartest person in the room.

Below are more running back articles to help you improve.

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Often announcers and football coaches will spin on formations and player positions. The names of the position are often categorized by where they are standing on the field.

Full, half and wing backs are primarily used in running back positions behind the quarterback. Slot and H-backs are used more horizontally to the quarterback to catch the ball.

When watching the football game, see if you can identify what players are. Soon you’ll be identifying X, Y, Z receivers as your knowledge continues to grow.

What do you notice that’s different about what is said compared to what you already know? We’re always looking for other verbiage and different ways to identify positions. Let us know in the comment section below.

Let’s keep learning! Our learning center is packed with techniques, schemes, and more!

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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.

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