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American Football for Beginners

Updated on February 29, 2020
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Football Team from 1894 - Look how different this team is from our teams today!Tom Marshall's Tuscon football team
Football Team from 1894 - Look how different this team is from our teams today!
Football Team from 1894 - Look how different this team is from our teams today!
Tom Marshall's Tuscon football team
Tom Marshall's Tuscon football team

If you're anything like me, you don't have a clue what's up with this football thing. Well, after long talks with friends, I've been enlightened some, and so now I'm going to share what I've learned with you. In this little how-to you'll learn about:

  • Common terms and phrases
  • A very brief history of American Football

Are you ready to learn about football? Let's go then!

A Short History of Football

American football gets it's roots from, of all sports, rugby. Changes to the game began fast, with the National Football League (commonly referred to as the NFL now) forming in 1892, though it was known as the American Professional Football Association until 1922.

The American Football League began officially in 1960, though it eventually merged with the NFL, an act which is what spurred the creation of the Superbowl. Aren't we lucky they got together?

The first professional football game occurred when the Allegheny Athletic Association paid William Heffelfinger a (then huge) $500.00 in 1892! Though there were plenty of 'athletic clubs' playing the game, it is hard to trace who the first ever football team was. At the turn of the 20th century, football was growing in popularity and complexity as a sport.

Some Basic Terms

  • Audible - a command given on the go that tells the team they're changing to a different play. This command is given by the quarterback.
  • Ball Carrier - Anyone who is currently holding the ball (also called possession.)
  • Backs - a shortened term for halfback and/or fullback
  • Blocking - when a player on the defense team uses his arms and bodies to stop an offensive player from getting to the ball carrier
  • Call a Play - when the team follows a play as planned with no changes made by the quarterback
  • Down - The offense team has four chances to advance the ball by 10 yards, these are each called 'downs.'
  • End zone - the area in which a player must bring the ball in order to score a touchdown.
  • Field Goal - A kick made which is aimed between the two bars of the goal post. A successful field goal is worth three points.
  • Foul - any violation of the rules as decreed by the referee team
  • Holding - a common foul, this is where a player grabs on to the uniform, safety gear or body parts of a player
  • Interception - a player on the defense catches the ball in the air, during a pass between members of the offense team. The defense team is then considered the offense, and vice versa.
  • Kick-off - A kick made by one team toward the opposite team to get the game started. This is done at the very beginning and middle of the game. It is also done every time a team scores.
  • Midfield - the 50 yard line
  • Out of Bounds - outside the marked sidelines and end zone lines. If the ball carrier or ball go out of these lines, the current play is over.
  • Play - Moments of action during which the ball is in motion.
  • Possession - Holding or controlling the football.
  • Tackling - Causing the ball carrier or ball to touch the ground with the force of your body
  • Touchdown - When the offense reaches the end zone either by running across the first line into the end zone while holding the ball, or by catching the football while standing in the end zone


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