What Is A Center In American Football? Snaps & More  

In American football, the center is one of the most crucial positions. The center is a football team’s innermost lineman on the offensive line. At the beginning of each play, the center also hands the ball to the quarterback between his legs. 

Here at Cleats Hub, we look at what a center is, what they perform on the field, and the skills required to play the position well.  

What is a Center?   

To start each play, the center is the player who snaps the ball to the quarterback. They normally start the play by snapping the ball between their legs to the quarterback while standing in the middle of the offensive line, in front of the quarterback. 

Secondly, they don’t only snap the ball but are also essential in stopping defensive players from rushing the quarterback or interfering with an offensive play.

As they must be able to stand their ground against the strong defensive linemen they encounter, these are frequently among the strongest players on the offensive line. 

The Role of the Center   

Role of a Center

In American football, the center is a vital player whose contribution to the offense is crucial. The following are some of their duties:  

Snapping the Ball: Their primary duty is to start each play by snapping the ball to the quarterback. The player must snap the ball quickly and accurately to provide the quarterback ample time to make decisions and carry out the play.  

Blocking Defender: They also block the defensive players, especially the defensive lineman who lines up across from the center and prevent the defender from slipping past them. 

Establishing the Running Game: They also assist in developing the running game. The center must split the defensive line by the center, allowing the running back to pass and gain yards.  

Skills Required to Play Center   

Skills Required for a Center

In American football, this position involves a variety of abilities. The following are some of the abilities a center needs to succeed:  

Strength: In order to dislodge opponents and provide room for the running back, the center needs to be strong. Also, they must be able to hold their own against strong opponents.  

Quickness: The center needs to be nimble since they must snap the ball and quickly block defenders. Secondly, they must be able to maneuver laterally to block defenders who attempt to pass them by.  

Agility: To move quickly over the field and respond to defensive moves, the center needs to be agile. However, they must also have the quickness to alter directions to stop defenders from slipping by them.

Technique: The center must snap the ball and block defenders with good technique. And, they must be able to identify various defensive alignments and modify their blocking method accordingly.  

Types of Centers

Types of Centers

In American football, there are different varieties of centers: 

  1. Offensive Center: The quarterback receives the ball from the offensive center to begin each play. To protect the quarterback and create space for the running back to run, they also block the defensive lineman. 
  1. Defensive Nose Tackle: The defensive nose tackle positions up directly over the offensive center to penetrate the offensive line and make tackles in order to stop the opposing team’s running game. 
  1. Special Teams Center: The special teams’ punter or placekicker gets the snap from the center in kicking situations.
  1. Wildcat Center: To provide direct snaps to the running back or quarterback in a “wildcat” formation, the center may line up in a different position in some offensive systems. 
  1. Long Snapper: It is the sole responsibility of the long snapper to snap the ball on punts and field goal attempts. Under duress, they must be able to produce precise and reliable snaps. 

What is Expected from a Center?  

What is expected from a Center?

The center is a key position in the offense in American football, and there are a lot of demands on him or her. Apart from snapping the ball and blocking, following are what we could expect from a center:  

Making calls: Pre-snap calls, such as announcing the defensive alignment or altering the blocking assignments, are frequently the responsibility of the center. The center must be familiar with both the playbook and the defense of the opposition to do this.  

Communication: Effective communication skills are a need for centers, both with their teammates and the coaching staff. They must be able to give input and alter plans based on what they observe on the playing field. 

Leadership: Centers on the offensive line are known as its captains. They must lead by example for their teammates, speak out when necessary, and maintain composure under pressure.  

A center needs to be a dependable and consistent player with good blocking, leadership, and communication skills. The center’s position is crucial, and the center’s performance greatly influences the effectiveness of the team’s offense.

Why are NFL Centers Short?

It’s not usually the case along the offensive line, but centers may come in varied sizes. Due to their low center of gravity, NFL clubs have historically favored shorter centers, but in recent years, teams have started to sign taller centers and players with both long and short arms.

Moreover, the shorter size gives them the leverage to carry out their designated roles.

Top NFL Centers  

Top NFL Centers

Jim Otto

From 1960 until 1974, Jim Otto was the Oakland Raiders’ center. He played in the Pro Bowl ten times and was selected to the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade Team.  

Otto made a record at his time because he participated in 308 straight games. Later, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

During the Raiders’ dynastic years in the 1960s and 1970s, he served as the offensive line’s center and helped the team win a Super Bowl in 1977.  

Mike Webster

From 1974 to 1988, Mike Webster played center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team during the 1970s and 1980s and was a nine-time Pro Bowl participant.  

Moreover, Webster was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

Webster was well-known for his wit and defense-reading skills. During the Steelers’ dynastic years in the 1970s, he served as the offensive line’s center and helped the team win four Super Bowls.  

Dwight Stephenson

From 1980 until 1987, Dwight Stephenson, a 1998 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, was the Miami Dolphins’ center. He played in five Pro Bowls and was selected to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team.  

Stephenson was a major member of the Dolphins’ stout offensive line in the 1980s and was well-known for his strength and quickness.  

Mel Hein

From 1931 until 1945, Mel Hein was the center for the New York Giants. He was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1930s and played in four Pro Bowls.  

Hein wrote a record to his name at his time as he played 165 straight games, giving evidence of his strength and toughness.

During the Giants’ dynamite years in the 1930s and 1940s, he served as the offensive line’s center and helped the team win two NFL championships.  

Apart from that, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Kevin Mawae

From 1994 through 2009, Kevin Mawae was a center for the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, and Seattle Seahawks. He was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team during the 2000s and an eight-time Pro Bowler.  

It is worth noting here that, Mawae was famous for his adaptability and capacity to play a variety of positions in the offensive line. His contributions to the offensive lines of the Seahawks and Jets in the early 2000s were crucial.  

To conclude, the above five players have impacted football, and their accomplishments and records speak for themselves.

On the pitch, they were all leaders, and their influence on their teams was enormous. Surely, there will be high regard for them among the NFL’s all-time best centers.   


An important part of the team’s offense in American football, the center is more than just a position. They are equally as crucial even though they may not be as showy as a quarterback or wide receiver.

Secondly, they are sort of the adhesive that holds the offensive line together. Without them, the offensive line would break down, and everything would be out of order.

Moreover, even if they may not receive the same attention as other players, their contributions are still very much appreciated.  

Take a moment to appreciate them the next time you’re watching a football game. Give a center a high five if you see them since they are the engine that drives their team’s offensive.

Because let’s face it, American football wouldn’t be the same without centers.  

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