What Does a Halfback Do in Football?

What Does a Halfback Do in Football?

In football, halfback is also reckoned as the midfielder, and it is a position that stands between the defensive and forward responsibilities. 

Usually, half-backs play the defensive role when others are active in passing the ball from one player to another. But what do they actually do in the game or the responsibility of a halfback?

Halfback is one of the most glorious positions in the field, and they play a significant role in the team’s success. Halfbacks do the basic thing to intervene in the opposing team’s attacks when other midfielders create the goal. 

Also Read: Whats Does a Fullback Do in Football?

What Does a Halfback Do in Football?

A halfback is also reckoned as a tailback sometimes. It is an offensive position in American football. Halfbacks carry the ball on the majority of running plays. 

Also, they are used as a receiver in the short passing plays. Occasionally they play as the additional wide receivers as well. 

When halfbacks don’t serve any of the roles, the primary responsibility of a halfback is to help the offensive lineman in blocking to protect the quarterback or other player carrying the football. 

Sometimes the halfback catches the ball from the backfield as he is an efficient receiver. In football history from the 1870s through the 1950s, the halfback position was both offensive and defensive. 

There are some characteristics that halfbacks must have to give better performance in the field. Such characteristics are;

Height and weight

Players who play in the running back position have great diversity. They are usually faster players. These agile and fast running backs are called scat backs, and their low center of gravity and maneuverability let them dodge tacklers. 

The other quality is power backs, where bigger and stronger players use raw power and strength to break through tackles. 

They are usually slower runners than the other backs, and they usually run straight rather than dodging to the outside edges of the playing field like quicker, lighter, and shorter backs. 


halfback blocking

Halfbacks help the offensive line in passing situations and then often block the linebackers on passing plays when the offensive line gets occupied with the defensive lineman. Therefore, effective blocking backs are the key characteristics for halfbacks. 

Goal line backs

Several teams have a halfback who plays as a short yardage specialist or goal line back. Usually, halfbacks appear in short yardage situations when the offense requires 1 to 5 yards to get the first down. 

Also, the halfbacks appear in the game when the offense is near the goal line. When the offense remains inside the 5 yard line, the goal line formation includes a halfback, a fullback, a quarterback, and eight blockers. Here when a halfback is used near the goal line, he is called the goal line back. 

Passing ability

In rare situations, halfbacks are asked to throw the ball while running. This scenario is known as the halfback pass. Such a game is quite risky as most halfbacks are inexperienced passers. Usually, halfbacks who are more skilled at passing are used to handling such situations. The halfback can throw the ball while running a direct snap play. 

Receiving ability

Due to their skill at running the ball, some halfbacks are known for their catching passes. The role of a halfback has expanded in the NFL for several years. A versatile halfback who has pass catching abilities is highly valued. Often a halfback runs a safe route like a hook that creates a safe target for a quarterback to throw. Therefore the demand for halfbacks with great receiving ability is always high. 

Contribution to special teams

A halfback may be called upon to return kickoffs and punts on special teams. However, usually defensive backs and wide receivers do this. Still, some halfbacks have sufficient speed and skill to perform this role.

What is Half-Back, and Why is it called Halfback?

what is halfback

A halfback is an attacking player who stands behind the front line and runs with the ball in football. In American football, the halfback plays in the offensive position. 

The duty of a halfback is to line up in the backfield and carry the ball on most rushing plays. Many people consider the running back position as halfback also. 

Halfback is also reckoned as tailback that serves as the main ball carrier on offense. Therefore, halfbacks must have specific athletic skills at their disposal. 

They also need to have excellent vision. The most offensive formations have only one or two running backs.

With passing time in football history, the tailback was moved up beside the fullback and gradually reckoned as the halfback. They called it so as there was no better name. 

Also, in some teams, the quarterback was called the halfback as the player was a quarter away from the ball. The halfback was lined up closer to the line.

What are the responsibilities of the halfback?

halfback responsibilities

Halfbacks are one of the most underrated player roles in football, and they provide serious stability to any midfield. The role of the halfback is mainly defensive, and also, halfbacks prevent any attacks from coming through. 

The main role of a halfback is to protect the defenders and keep the ball moving in the midfield.

During the game, halfbacks run the ball when it is handed off to him. He must be a very quick runner and light on his feet. Halfbacks may have to adjust according to different lanes opening and closing. 

He also has to read the field at a glance so that he clearly understands where his teammates and opponents are positioned. If the ball is not handed off to him during the game, he plays his role as an extra blocker. 

As a blocker, he keeps away the opponents from the ball carrier. Also, sometimes, halfbacks serve as a receiver and catch passes if required.

Is it half-back offense or defense?

A halfback is referred to as a tailback sometimes. They play an offensive position in American football. The halfback lines up in the backfield, and he carries the ball on run plays. 

We can say the halfbacks are players whose position is midway between attacking forwards and defenders. Their main role is to maintain possession of the ball. 

They take the ball from the defenders and feed it to the strikers and opposing players.

Is a halfback and running back the same?

Yes, a running back may be a halfback. Also, a running back is called a feature back sometimes if he is the starting running back of the team. 

Running backs play a significant role in the football team’s offense, and they run, catch, or block to help their team downfield. 

There are various running backs that take different roles within the offense. A backfield may showcase a designated halfback along with a fullback.

What's the difference between a Fullback and a Halfback?

halfback vs fullback

It may be quite confusing to describe the difference between fullback and halfback due to the evolution of the game. Originally the quarterback was called by this name as he was a quarter away from the ball. 

The player behind the quarterback was called the fullback. The halfback was positioned closer to the line than the fullback. 

Usually, the offense had two halfbacks previously. They were positioned halfway between the full-back and the quarterback but split off one to every side. 

So, we can say that halfback, fullback, and tailback all are the categories of the running backs. Fullback generally serves as a blocker, while halfbacks serve as the main ball carriers. 

Fullbacks are typically larger than halfbacks. The duties of fullbacks are pass catching, power running, and blocking both the quarterback and other running back. 

So, the difference between fullbacks is halfbacks depend on the field, strength, design, and role in the play. However, both these positions qualify as the running backs and ensure benefits to the offense. 

Fullbacks- Fullbacks protect the halfbacks and play their role as a blocker in football. The role of this player is to prevent the smaller halfback from being handled by the defensive players. 

So, the fullback lines up in front of the halfback for the snap. Usually, fullbacks are bigger in size, more physically active, and stronger in comparison with the halfbacks. 

Sometimes fullbacks carry the ball. However, it is not that common in football as halfbacks are faster than fullbacks.

Halfbacks- Halfbacks work mainly as the main ball carrier for the running plays. The halfback’s job is to receive handoffs or occasional passes from the quarterback, and they run the ball downfield towards the opposing team’s end zone. 

Halfbacks are mainly positioned behind quarterback and fullback, and halfbacks are more versatile on the field in comparison with the fullbacks. 


Hopefully, now you know what does a halfback do in football. Football is a team play, and every player plays a significant role during the entire game. 

Similarly, the halfbacks also play an essential role throughout the match. If halfbacks don’t have to run or catch the ball, their primary responsibility is to block the offensive lineman. 

Otherwise, they also play their role in protecting the quarterback or any other player carrying the football. 

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