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American Football – Ultimate Guide

Want to learn more about American football? Here, you are in the right place. 

American Football is one of the biggest sports in North America. Millions of Americans converge to watch the NFL Super Bowl annually. However, apart from its huge fan base in the country of its birth, it has millions of fans worldwide.

In some countries, American football is often referred to as gridiron or gridiron football to distinguish it from other football games. However, the complexity of the game makes it so interesting to watch and makes it more than a test of brute strength and muscle.

In this article, you will learn about American Football, its rules, field dimensions, players’ positions, and others, as well as about NFL. Let’s dive in!

What is American Football?

What is the Meaning of American Football

American football is the most popular game in the United States and Canada. It is a Competitive team sport that is played by two teams of eleven players. There is a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. Each team should have 11 players.

Canadian football also has many characteristics distinguishing American football from rugby and soccer. Both sports are considered the earliest forms of gridiron football.

The game’s aim is to score points by carrying the football into the opposing team’s end zone. The ball may be moved by carrying, throwing, or passing from one teammate to another. The team with the most points wins when time runs out, and the game is over. But a tie could be played.

You can improve your speed, agility, strength, hand-eye coordination, and cardiovascular endurance through American football. 

If you think American football is confusing, this article is for you.

What is the NFL?

The full form of the NFL is National Football League. It is a professional American football league comprising 32 teams. It is divided the team equally between the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). The team that wins the AFC Championship faces the winner of the NFC Championship in the Super Bowl at the end of each season.

National Football League

NFL is the largest and longest-enduring professional football league in the United States. It was formed in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) before being renamed the National Football League for the 1922 season.

The NFL consists of 32 clubs and is divided into 2 conferences of 16 teams each. In addition, each conference is divided into 4 divisions of 4 clubs. 

History of American Football

American football is a sport that originated in the US in the late 19th century. The game evolved from a combination of rugby and association football (soccer) and quickly became popular among college students.

History of American Football

The first American football game is believed to have been played on November 6, 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers University. The game was a modified version of rugby, with 25 players per team and a goal ball. Rutgers won the game 6-4.

Over the next few years, the game’s rules continued to evolve, and in 1880 a standard set of rules was established. The game became more organized and popular, and soon college teams across the country played against each other.

In 1892, the first professional football league in Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Athletic Association, was formed. However, this was short-lived, and it was not until the 1920s. American Professional Football Association (APFA), which later became the National Football League (NFL), was formed.

The NFL grew in popularity during the 20th century and became one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. The league has gone through many changes over the years, including the expansion to more teams, rules, and equipment changes which has become one of the most popular sports in the world.

In addition to the NFL, many other professional football leagues in the United States, including the Canadian Football League (CFL), the Arena Football League (AFL), and the XFL.

Today, American football is one of the most popular sports in the United States and has also gained a following worldwide. The game constantly evolves and will remain a favorite pastime for many years.

American Football Rules

A Bunch of Players and One of them Holding the Ball
Figure 04: American Football Rules

American football is a sport that is played between two teams. Each team wants to score more points than the other. Here are some basic rules of American football:

Rule 1

Each team should have 11 players on the field at a time. The offensive team has four downs (or chances) to advance the ball 10 yards toward the opponent’s end zone.  If they fail, possession of the ball is turned over to the defensive team.

Rule 2

The team with the ball is known as the offense. They aim to advance the ball down the field and score points by getting it into the opponent’s end zone or kicking it through the opponent’s goalposts. The team without a ball is known as the defense. They aim to stop the offense from scoring.

Rule 3

A touchdown is worth six points. It is scored when a player carries the ball into the opponent’s end zone or catches a pass in the end zone. After that, the scoring team can attempt a one-point conversion by kicking the ball through the opponent’s goalposts. Then, they can try a two-point conversion by running or passing the ball into the end zone.

Rule 4

A field goal is 3 points and is scored by kicking the ball to the opponent’s goalposts from anywhere on the field. Teams often attempt a field goal on fourth down if they are close enough to the opponent’s goalposts but cannot advance the ball further.

Rule 5

The game is divided into 4 quarters, each lasting 15 minutes. There is a halftime break after the second quarter.

Rule 6

American football has many rules and regulations regarding player safety, such as rules against tackling players by the head or neck or hitting defenseless players. These rules are enforced by the officials on the field.

Position of the Players

According to the football rules, each team will have 11 players on the field. This means there will be 22 players on the field for each game.

Two Teams are Ready to Start the Game
Figure 05: Position of the Players

The rule is whether one team is on offense and the other on defense, or it’s a special team’s play, such as a punt, kickoff, or field goal attempt.

Let’s talk a little more about a football team’s three main “units”: offense, defense, and special teams. Here are they:

  • The Offense
  • The Defense
  • Special Teams

The Offense

The offense is the unit that is responsible for trying to score points. They need to do this by running or passing the football down the field. The offense usually consists of 11 players. Their position:

  • Quarterback
  • Running Back
  • Fullback
  • Wide Receiver
  • Tight End
  • Center
  • Left Guard
  • Right Guard
  • Right Tackle
  • Left Tackle

Coaches have the option to change out some of these players for different positions. That depends on the game they want to call.

The final five players can be switched out for each other. For example, suppose the coach decides to have one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers. Or they can choose no running backs, one tight, end, and four wide receivers.

The Defense

The defense team’s job is to prevent the offense team from scoring points. They do this by tackling players carrying the football and forcing them to commit a turnover or punt the ball away.

The 11 players in defense positions are:

  • Defensive Tackle
  • Middle Linebacker
  • Outside Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  • Strong Safety 
  • Free Safety
  • Defensive End

A “base” defense might consist of four defensive linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, and two safeties. The coach can choose to sub out some of those players, though. For example, they may sub out a linebacker for an extra cornerback.

Special Teams

Special teams are responsible for the kicking game. This includes place-kicking attempts that try to score points. And punts that give the ball to the other team after the offense failed to get a first down.

The four times teams use their special teams include:

  • Kickoff/kick return
  • Punt/punt return
  • Extra point attempt/extra point block
  • Field goal attempt/field goal block

When one unit is on the kickoff, the other team’s kick return team is on the field. The same goes for each of the other three combinations.

How American Football Games Start

A Team Planning Before Starting the Game
Figure 06: How American Football Games Start

American Football is played on 4 sided ground with goalposts at each end. The two opposing teams are named the Offense and the Defense. Though the game is tough to understand, starting the game is easy. Here I am telling you how you can start the match:

  • Every game starts with a coin toss.
  • The toss winner decides whether they want to offense first or defend or defer (let the other team choose).
  • The team that gets down on defense first has the kickoff team on the field.
  • The placekicker will kick the ball to the kick return team, to which a player will receive the ball and attempt to run down the field.
  • After he is tackled or forced out of bounds, the offense will take over, and the other team’s defense will come onto the field.
  • After each score, there will be a kickoff in the same way.
  • At the start of the second half, the team that kicked off at the beginning of the game will now receive the kickoff from the other team.

American Football Scoring System

A Score Board Showing the Score of the Match

It is a game played with an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field. The game aims to score points by carrying the ball across the opposing team’s goal line or kicking it through their goalposts. Here is a breakdown of the scoring system in American football:

  • Touchdowns: 6 points
  • Extra points: 1 or 2 point
  • Field goals: 3 points
  • Safeties: 2 points

Touchdowns: 6 points

A touchdown occurs whenever a player carries the ball over the opposing team’s goal line. Therefore, regardless of how your team scores a touchdown, they will earn 6 points. This can happen in a few ways:

  • When an offensive player runs the ball across the goal line
  • Or when an offensive player catches a forward pass and runs across the goal line
  • Whereas a defensive player records a fumble and returns it across the goal line
  • In order that, a defensive player picks up a fumble and returns it across the goal line
  • When a kick returner returns a kick across the goal line
  • A punt returner returns a punt across the goal line

Extra Points: 1 or 2 point

If the kicker successfully kicks the ball through the uprights, the offense scores 1 extra point.

On the other hand, if they can cross the goal line in that game successfully, they will score 2 extra points.

Field goals: 3 points

Field Goals are the exact same play as an Extra Point. When the ball is kicked through the opponent’s goalposts, this can be attempted from anywhere on the field and is worth 3 points.

Safeties: 2 points

Defenses can also score points for their team through safety. It happens whenever they can tackle an attacking player in their end zone. When this happens, the defending team gets 2 points.

American Football Field and Dimension

In American football, the value of field rates is 120 yards long, and 53 1/3 yards wide. And the last 10 yards on either end of the field are considered the “end zone” where a player scores.

American Football Field Dimension
Figure 08: American Football Field and Dimension

Length of Football Field

The total length of an American football field is 120 yards. The playing zone is 100 yards long, and each end zone is 10 yards deep. The area is marked with a yard line every 5 yards and a field number every 10 yards. Hash marks, 1 yard apart, mark each down when the ball is inside the yard line.

Width of Football Field

The standard football field is 160 feet wide. The primary difference between the different levels of play is the space between the two sets of hash marks:

  • High School – 53 feet, 4 inches
  • College – 40 feet
  • NFL – 18 feet, 6 inches

All plays start on or between hash marks, depending on where the previous play ended. So, for example, if the last play ended along the right sideline, the ball would be placed on the correct hash mark.

Goal Post Dimensions

Goal Post of American Football
Figure 09: Goal Post Dimension

The goal crossbar is 10 feet high, and the posts are 20 feet high. So, the total height is 30 feet. NFL and NCAA goalposts are 18 feet, 6 inches wide. The high school goalposts are 23 feet, 4 inches wide.

Tips For Beginner

You may now want to play the game but still don’t know how? Or you may want to play on a team but need to be qualified more. Well, no need to worry. In this part, if you are a beginner, you will learn how to play American Football.  Moreover, it will help you to play with a skilled team.

Some Beginner Tips of American Football

Here are the basic steps for the beginner:

  1. Know the main point of the game. For example, American football aims to score points by holding the ball from a starting point to the end zone.
  2. It would be best if you learned the time divisions. American football is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each. And between the second and third periods, called “halftime,” which is usually 12 minutes long. 
  3. Need to learn the flow of the game. It is made up of two basic structural elements. One is kickoff and the other one is downs design.
  4. Learn about the structure of a team. Each team is allowed eleven players on the field at a time.
  5. You need to keep track of your score. The purpose of the game is to score more points than the opposing team. In the event of a tie, an additional 15 minutes of overtime is usually played.
  6. Pierce the defense with passing plays. The great advantage of a passing game is its ability to overcome a solid ground defense completely.
  7. Your offensive team may plan to use a mix of both running and passing plays to keep the defense guessing. Therefore, you must practice a few different formations with your team and execute them well.
  8. Once you and the team is prepared, it is time to compete against other teams on the field. Players need to stay focused, work together, and be prepared.

American Football Equipment 

Every football player must wear sports equipment according to the rules. Referees check the pieces of equipment before the game to ensure the player has all the pads needed to meet the guidelines.

These are some of the mandatory pieces of equipment that all players must wear while playing football:

  • Ovoid ball
  • Helmet
  • Shoulder Pads
  • Arm Pads
  • Elbow Pads
  • Rib Pads
  • Hip & Tailbone Pads
  • Thigh & Knee Pads
  • Gloves
  • Cleats (footgear)
  • Jersey
  • Pants

Uniform Numbers of American Football

Over-the-shoulder pad football jerseys are worn on game days. These American football jerseys are made of soft nylon material and the numbers on the front and back.

Football numbers are essential, as players must read a certain number based on their position. In addition, it helps referees determine who can catch the football and who cannot.

Here are the uniform numbers rules of American football numbers:

  • 1-19: Quarterback, Kicker, Punter, Wide Receiver, Running Back
  • 20-29: Running Back, Cornerback, Safety
  • 30-39: Running Back, Cornerback, Safety
  • 40-49: Running Back, Tight End, Cornerback, Safety
  • 50-59: Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebacker
  • 60-69: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
  • 70-79: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
  • 80-89: Wide Receiver, Tight End
  • 90-99: Defensive Line, Linebacker

American Football Skills

Showing some Skills of American Football

American football is a physical strength sport that requires a combination of skills, including strength, speed, agility, and coordination. Some of the key skills required to excel in American football are:

  • Passing and Receiving
  • Rushing Downfield
  • Catching the Ball
  • Decision Making
  • Skills and Tricks
  • Shooting
  • Dribbling

Passing and Receiving

Accuracy in passing and receiving is key. It makes available play fluid and ensures constant progression up the field, which can lead to scoring opportunities.

When you look at the top leagues in the world, the ball doesn’t really stop once you get it. It is constantly moving forward in the direction the game is going to go.

Rushing Downfield

Rushing is the act of running with the football from the start of the offensive play. The skills required for running include anticipating the movements of opposing team members and making quick, lateral adjustments to avoid opposing players.

Catching the Ball

Playing the receiver position in football requires catching the ball the most. Receivers must avoid opponents who attempt to block or intercept the ball. Instead, they make clear catches to escape from nets or opponents.

Receivers must attempt to make the catch knowing that they will come to hit an opposing player immediately or shortly after the catch.

Decision Making

You have to decide which direction to pass when you get the ball. To develop this skill, pay attention to the position of the players on the field during the match. The ability to make sound decisions can only be mastered through experience.

Skills and Tricks

It is important to have a few skills that can help a player beat the defender. Start with basic skills and progress to complex skills. It includes the ability to handle pressure, make quick decisions, and adapt to changing circumstances on the field.


Every player needs accurate shooting skills, especially when players are attacked. You need to develop the power in your shot. However, more importantly, you need accuracy and confidence when hitting.


It is important to work with both left and right feet. To develop this skill, change the position of the cone each time you practice this drill. In addition to this drill, you can exercise for zigzag runs, shuttles up and down, diagonal dribbles, and working each leg separately.

As you improve your dribbling ability, decrease the gap between the cones so that it the drill becomes harder.


In conclusion, American football is a complex and physically demanding sport that requires a combination of skills including speed, strength, agility, coordination, and mental toughness. 

The popularity of American football has grown significantly over the years with the National Football League (NFL) serving as the most prominent professional league in the United States.

American football remains a popular and beloved sport in the United States and worldwide. Whether played at the youth or professional level, soccer offers players and fans a unique and exciting experience.

American Football FAQs

By now, I hope many ideas about American football are clear. Although the game is a bit tough to understand, I think you may still have some questions. So here I am, answering some questions for you. You can also share your thoughts with us by commenting below.

Why do Americans call it football?

The American game was another variant of the European football game, so it became known as football.

Is American football the same as rugby?

No. The playing rules are very different between American football and rugby.

Which sport is the most popular in the USA?

American Football
Ice Hockey

What is the most important thing in American football?

The most important thing in American football is The touchdown (TD), and worth six points.

How long is an American football game?

The American football game is officially a 60-minute event, with four 15-minute quarters.

What are the skills of American football?

Passing and receiving
Decision making
Skills and tricks
Running off the ball

How many positions are in American football?

There are 24 football positions, with 22 players on the field simultaneously.

Why is American football the greatest sport?

It is a physically demanding sport that allows players to improve their speed, agility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance.



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