Quarterback, Halfback, Fullback, Cornerback, Nickelback … What does the “back” in these position titles mean? The back of what?!?
Football is a descendant of (Scottish) rugby. The titles are leftovers from that older sport. Between the scrum line (or line of scrummage) and the backfield, players would arrange themselves. For example, the Halfback was positioned halfway back between the scrum and the backfield.
Today we call the line, the line of scrimmage. The Quarterback lines up a quarter of the way behind the Center and the backfield, the Halfback is halfway … You can figure out the rest
But what about the Nickelback and Cornerback and Running Back and Linebacker?
Remember, the key to all of this is where they line up.
Nickelback – remember when we talked about the Nickel 40 defensive strategy? The Nickelback is that fifth guy added (5 as in 5¢ … nickel).
Cornerback – this defensive player plays in the back corners of the field, covering receivers.
Running Back – this one was the hardest for me understand. Why would he run back? It’s not that. It’s about the line up. The Running Back is basically a Halfback who can run with the ball. You know what’s extra confusing? Sometimes they’re called Tailbacks.
Linebacker – you’re getting good at this, I’ll bet. Think about it … What’s a linebacker? That’s right! He is a defensive player who is positioned on the back line … Not on the line of scrimmage, but the line behind it.
Remember, they’re all lined up in BACK of the Center … But everyone wants to move FORWARD.