Running Back

The running back is a crucial position on any football team, but as the game of football has developed over the years, running backs have had to adapt to the change in play style.

Football used to be heavily focused on running the ball, so the running back position was almost as important as the quarterback. In more recent years however, running plays have taken a back seat while air raid offenses became the norm and passing plays to wide receivers took over the game.

The running back stands in the offensive backfield with the quarterback before the play begins. On run plays, running backs are to receive handoffs from the quarterback and attempt to gain as much yardage as possible. On pass plays, they are required to either block potential tacklers before they reach the ball carrier.

What are their responsibilities?

The primary responsibility of a running back is to run with the football and gain yards. They do this by reading the defense and finding the best path to run. They also need to be able to catch the ball on short passes from the quarterback and make big plays down the field.

Additionally, running backs must be skilled in blocking, both in pass protection and run blocking defensive players. This is essential to protect the quarterback and create holes for the running game.

They may have a varied role, but the key responsibility for a running back is always carrying the ball.

Halfback vs Fullback

Running backs come in all shapes and sizes, and as a result, each running back will have a particular set of skills that serve particular plays better than others. One way of separating players is the two different types of running backs - halfback and fullback.


Either referred to as a halfback or tailback, this type of running is typically the faster and more elusive of the two positions. The halfback lines up behind the quarterback and receives handoffs from the quarterback or takes direct snaps from the center. The halfback's primary role is to carry the ball and gain yards on the ground, although they may also be called upon to catch passes or block for the quarterback or other runners.


On the other hand, a fullback is usually bigger and more powerful than a halfback. In American football, the fullback lines up behind the quarterback and often blocks for the halfback or quarterback. While fullbacks may occasionally carry the ball, their primary role is to serve as a blocker for other runners.

What Makes a Great Running Back?

A great running back has a combination of speed, strength, agility, and vision. Speed is important to outrun defenders and break away for long runs. Strength is essential for breaking tackles and powering through the defense. Agility allows the running back to quickly change direction and evade tacklers. Vision is crucial to reading the defense and finding the best running lanes.

A great running back is also a versatile player who can contribute in multiple ways on the field. They must be able to catch passes, block effectively, and make smart decisions with the ball.

Famous NFL Running Backs

The NFL has seen many great running backs throughout its history. Here are just a few of the most famous:

  • Jim Brown: Brown played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957-1965 and is widely considered one of the greatest running backs of all time. He was a three-time NFL MVP and won the NFL championship in 1964.

  • Walter Payton: Payton played for the Chicago Bears from 1975-1987 and was known for his toughness and durability. He set several NFL records during his career, including most career rushing yards.

  • Emmitt Smith: Smith played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1990-2002 and is the NFL's all-time leading rusher. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion and won the NFL MVP award in 1993.

  • Barry Sanders: Sanders played for the Detroit Lions from 1989-1998 and was known for his incredible speed and agility. He won the NFL MVP award in 1997 and retired as the third-leading rusher in NFL history.

  • LaDainian Tomlinson: Tomlinson played for the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets from 2001-2011. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and won the NFL MVP award in 2006. He retired as the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history.