Why Football Players Point In Football

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: August 31, 2023

Football players, as well as referees, can often be seen pointing after each play. What’s the reasoning behind players who point in football?

Players point in football to signal a first down. Pointing up the field is the same signal a referee makes to signal a first down when a player crosses the first down marker.

In this article, we will show you everything you need to know about players pointing in football.

Why Players Point In Football

The reason players do this is to showboat to the other team, letting them know they just got a first down.

First downs are essential in football because it gives the offense a new set of opportunities to score a touchdown.

If a running back breaks through the line of scrimmage and gets the first down, this is when you’ll often see them running back point for the first down.

If the quarterback throws the ball to a wide receiver, this is when you’ll see both players, out of excitement, signal first down. The players who signal first down do it showboat and for no other reason.

The first down signal from the player has no impact on the actual rules on the field.

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Why Centers And Offensive Lineman Point In Football

On offense, players who catch or carry the football can often be seen pointing toward the end zone they’re trying to score on.

It’s common to see offensive linemen, including the center, point to a defensive player before the ball is snapped.

Centers will do this to identify who the “mike” is on defense—determining who the “mike” will set the offensive line protection on who everyone is blocking.

If you want to learn more about the “Mike” on defense, be sure to read our article on why quarterbacks call out the mike linebacker here.

Often the offensive coordinator will have the center set the passing protection to see the center point.

In more advanced offenses, the offensive coordinator will have the quarterback point and communicate who the “mike” is and who the line should set the protection to.

This means each player will account for the player they point to ensure the quarterback has a clean pocket to throw from.

If you want to learn more about the game of football, we’ve created a complete guide here.

Why Referees Point In Football

First down in football signal

Referees point in football to signal first down. Pointing the same direction the offense is facing is the universal signal for first down.

The head referee will signal first down once the offense moves the football past the first down marker. Once the first down is signaled, the chains’ people will need to reset them to account for a new set of downs. The down will be reset to 1st down.

If the team is short of a first down, the referee will hold up the down number. For example, if it’s second down, the referee will hold up a 2; if it’s a third down, he’ll hold up three; and if it’s fourth down, he will hold up a fist to signal fourth.

The referee pointing first down is the only signal that matters on the field. Players and coaches pointing for a first down are often to influence the referee in short-yardage situations.

If the referee has the chain crew measure if the ball has crossed the first down the line and comes up short, the referee will often hold his hands about 6 inches apart. Holding up this signal lets the players, coaches and fans know that the ball is short of the first down.

Keep Learning

The reason why football players point during games is to signal a first down. They will often signal first down after they catch or receive the football after a long gain.

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While players and coaches will point, the only signal that matters is the referee’s ability to move the chains for a new first down.

Teams like the New England Patriots will often have the fan’s point by getting the crowd excited and pointed for a first down after a significant gain. Pointing is typical in football for a first down.

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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.