What Is A Pick 6 In Football? Explained

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

Football has become a passing game. Gone are the days when teams would run the football 30-40 times to secure the win. Teams are now throwing the football more than ever. However, throwing the football can result in good and bad consequences.

A pick 6 occurs when an interception is made by the defense and returned for a touchdown. The interception (also known as a pick) and a touchdown (resulting in 6 points) on the same play is where the term derives from.

In this article, we will break down a pick 6 in football and everything you need to know about it.

Pick 6 Football

In modern-day offenses, it’s common for teams to throw the football 40-50 times a game. Thirty years ago, this was only common for NFL teams with elite quarterbacks.

Now Pop Warner, high school, and even college teams throw the ball downfield more than ever.

Unfortunately, when the offense throws the football, there’s a chance it may get intercepted. An interception is when the defensive team catches the ball thrown by the opposing team.

Once the defensive team intercepts the opposing team’s quarterback, if it’s returned for a touchdown (six points), this is known as a pick 6. This game changing play can completely change the momentum of a game.

Once an interception occurs in American football, the offense will try to tackle the ball carrier.

Pick 6 Meaning In Football

Deion Sanders dancing on his way to a pick 6

The term pick 6 is broken up into two parts. The first part, “pick,” is a slang term in football that means to intercept the ball. The term comes from “picking” the ball out of the air, stealing it from the quarterback.

The term pick 6 is how many points are awarded to the defense once the player who intercepted it scores. An interception returned for a touchdown is worth six points.

Instead of saying the defensive player intercepted the ball and ran it for a touchdown, it’s much easier to say, “They scored on a pick 6”.

Although it’s very hard to score a touchdown on a pick six, it’s common for teams with aggressive defensive backs.

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Can Any Player On Defense Score A Pick 6?

An interception in football is one of the most exciting plays on defense. A pick 6 can occur by any player that’s on the defense.

A pick 6 is more common for defensive backs and linebackers, as they cover the wide receivers for who the pass is intended.

However, defensive linemen can also catch a deflected pass or even one thrown right to them. A pick 6 from a defensive lineman is rare, but it can happen.

Defensive backs like Deion Sanders and Asante Samuels were known for undercutting routes and score points. The pick 6 is a complete game-changer for both teams and can help swing momentum in the game.

A pick 6 also rattles the quarterback mentally, as they will be more cautious throwing the ball down the field.

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Difference Between An Interception & a Pick 6

The difference between an interception and a pick 6 is the points are scored with a pick 6. An interception is when a defensive player catches the ball thrown by the quarterback and doesn’t score. A pick 6 is when the defensive player catches the ball from the quarterback and scores a touchdown for their team.

Interceptions are a big part of stopping the passing attack from an offense. If defenses can score points by intercepting the ball, they will often gain a momentum advantage.

If a player intercepts the ball in their own end zone, they must run the entire length of the field to try to score. Although it’s common to just intercept the ball and take a knee for a touchback.

Keep Learning

A pick 6 is when any defensive player intercepts the ball from the opposing team’s quarterback and scores a touchdown.

The interception return is one of the most exciting plays in football. Most pick sixes occur off poor passes from the quarterback or tipped balls from the wide receiver. It’s common to see a pick six in the NFL because the defensive players are so fast.

Defensive backs and linebackers are the main positions on defense that can often be seen scoring a pick 6. A defensive lineman can intercept the ball for a touchdown, but it’s more common for defensive backs and linebackers.

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.