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Football for Dummies

Updated on September 18, 2009


Please keep in mind that the following information is meant for those with little to no knowledge or understanding about football.

The game can be confusing if you don't understand the rules, but the basics are simple. First off, the object of the game, like most games, is to score. There are different ways to score in football, but first you'll need to understand the basic terms of the game.

Football Basics

The Field

  • The football field is 120 yards long and 160 feet wide. The actual playing field is 100 yards.
  • There are stripes that mark every five yard intervals.
  • The hash marks, are the shorter lines that mark one line intervals.
  • The end zone extends ten yards; there is one on each side of the field.
  • There is a goal post in the back line of each end zone.
  • The goal line is the spot where the end zone and the playing field meet.

The Players

Each team consists of:


  • Halfback: Usually responsible for carrying the football on running plays.
  • Fullback: Usually responsible for run blocking for the halfback and pass blocking for the quarterback.
  • WideReceiver: Responsible for catching passes from the quarterback.
  • TightEnd: Used as a blocker and receiver
  • OffensiveTackle
  • OffensiveGuard
  • Center: lineman who hikes the football to the quarterback at the beginning of every play.


  • Defensive End: Keep the running back on the outside of running plays. He will, also, rush the quarterback on passing plays
  • Defensive Tackle: Stop the running back on running plays, get pressure to the middle of the field for passing plays, and occupy the blockers so that the linebacker can be free.
  • NoseTackle: Stop the run and occupy the offensive lineman to keep him from blocking the linebacker.
  • Linebacker: Act as the second line of defense.
  • Cornerback: Cover the wide receiver
  • Safety: Help the cornerback pass coverage.

Special Teams

  • Gunner: Race down field in order to tackle the kick or punt returner.
  • Holder: Catch the football and put it into a kicking position
  • KickReturner: Catch the football after kickoff and attempt to return to the other direction.
  • LongSnapper: Makes long snaps for punts
  • Placekicker: kicks the football on kickoffs
  • Punter: Catch the long snap from the center and kicks the football
  • PuntReturner: Catch the ball after it's punted and run toward the punting team's end zone

How to Score

  • Touchdown (6 points)

The player must carry the ball across the other team's goal line, or he must catch a pass in the end zone.

  • Extra Point Conversion (1 point)

One extra point to the team who scored to touchdown. The point is granted if the team can kick the ball through the goal posts from the two yard line.

  • Two-Point Conversion (2 points)

After scoring a touchdown, if the team decides to go for 2 extra points, they will line up at the two yard line and make one attempt to run or pass the football into the end zone.

  • Field Goal (3 points)

In a fourth- down, the team can attempt to kick a field goal between the goal posts in the other team's endzone.

  • Safety (2 points )

Tacking an opponent who has the football in their end zone.


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    • profile image

      kimmer 5 years ago

      this is good information, but isn't there a quarterback also??

    • profile image

      helen 5 years ago

      whitney what is an onside kick and when does it happen?

    • profile image

      casey 6 years ago

      this helped a lot but i still really don't get what the yards are for. and what's up with the 1st down, 2nd down, etc.? i just don't get it. I'm going to the book store and getting football for dummies haha

    • profile image

      twinkie! 6 years ago

      man, i still don't get the overall point of the game, and what is a 1st down, 2nd down...etc?!!!!!!!?!?!!??!?!

    • profile image

      rose 6 years ago

      I do not know ANYTHING about football, yet my boyfriend played football in high school. Guess who is going to teach me about football. And he is buying me the Football for Dummies book.

    • profile image

      ??? 7 years ago

      being english i always played football ( or as you americans call it soccer) now i get the idea.

    • profile image

      blondie_97 7 years ago

      thanks this helped! my boyfriend plays football and i don't understand any of it :) haha

    • profile image

      scrabble 7 years ago

      what does it mean when a high school team is 2A champs?

    • profile image

      Catherine 7 years ago

      I am confused about the downs. I always hear 1st down, 2nd down, and I am not sure what that means. My cousins all play football and I just want to know what's going on...?

    • profile image

      Joe 7 years ago

      Great stuff for beginers.

      Anon, you are right, they flip in the FIRST 1/4, but at the begining of the 2nd half they just reverse ends of the field.

    • profile image

      westernwaynegirl 7 years ago

      well i think this helped i guess....not sure i'll tell u when i understand football more

    • profile image

      elisabeth 7 years ago

      very helpful! my boyfriend plays football and i never understood what was going on. Thanks

    • profile image

      Anon 7 years ago


      They flip a coin

    • Zedfix profile image

      Zedfix 8 years ago

      Good article... I am not used to this sport at all :) it allwayz seemed complex ...

    • profile image

      Chris 8 years ago

      How do they decide which direction the two teams will go to start the second half of the game?

    • RedSonja94 profile image

      RedSonja94 8 years ago from Michigan

      Nice hub. I love the way it is put together. It is a very helpful article for those who are not familiar with football. Since I write about football for moms we have some similar content but all in all I love your writing style.

    • profile image

      anidea 8 years ago

      thnx, tht was very helpful .....

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      This is a useful hub for someone like myself who has very little knowledge of American Football having only briefly heard references etc and having never watched a whole game. This is mainly due to getting bored as the one thing which really annoys me about the sport is there is only about 60 minutes of action (I hope that is correct) but the game can go on for much longer eg 3 or more hours. Sometimes I guess it is cultural but in the UK football, rugby etc may last longer playing wise (90 minutes and 80 minutes respectively) but the whole game is normally over in less than 2 hours, which I feel leads to more intense action for the 90 minutes, rather than American Football where there are very short intense bursts of action followed by 5 minutes of everyone getting back into position/adverts (in my experience). Good hub though :).

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Really? I need to go check out yours. I didn't think it really had that much information. Thank you.

    • gamergirl profile image

      Kiz 10 years ago from Antioch, TN

      Great Hub, Whitney. Way more in depth than my 'beginner's guide to football' hub attempt. :(