Football Halfback

football halfbacks

What is a halfback in football?

The halfback (HB) in football is a type of running back who specializes in running plays as the ball carrier. The halfback gets the ball via a hand off from the quarterback at the start of a down. Halfbacks can also serve as receivers on passing plays.

Roles and Responsibilities

The halfback’s main role is to run the ball during plays when it is handed off to them. They should be a very quick runner light on their feet, because they might have to adjust to different lanes opening and closing.

Halfbacks are also responsible for reading the field at a glance, noting where their opponents are and where his open teammates are positioned. If the ball isn’t handed off to them, they serve as an extra blocker, keeping opponents away from the ball carrier. The halfback can also serve as a receiver and catch passes if they are needed in that role during a game.

Halfback Skills

The greatest skill a halfback needs is remarkable speed. Since the halfback is responsible for carrying the ball on most run plays, they need to be faster than pretty much everyone on the opposing team. That way, they can find a gap in the line of scrimmage and run through for maximum yardage.

Like any receiver, a halfback must be extremely skilled at ball handling. They must be able to keep the ball tight against their body on every run play or else run the risk of causing a fumble. There are also quite a few NFL halfbacks known for their great passing game as well, which of course requires a high level of both catching and handling of the ball.

Jersey Numbers

In the NFL, running backs are allowed to wear any number 1-49 and 80-89. The reason for this is to differentiate between eligible and ineligible receivers. In college football, it is not required for halfbacks to wear a certain number, but the rulebook strongly recommends that offensive backs wear numbers between 0-49.

Notable NFL Halfbacks

  • Barry Sanders
  • Emmitt Smith
  • Eric Dickerson
  • Gale Sayers
  • LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Walter Payton


Is a halfback the same position as a running back in football?

The terms running back and halfback are often used interchangeably in football alongside the terms tailback and fullback. However, halfbacks are running backs known for specializing in running plays as the primary ball carrier. That does not mean they will not occasionally do the same roles as different types of running backs. They will simply run far more often as a fullback is known for blocking far more often.

What is the difference between a halfback and fullback in football?

The difference between a halfback and fullback in football is that a fullback primarily blocks and a halfback is the primary ball carrier. Therefore, fullbacks are typically larger and not as fast as halfbacks. While they don’t typically carry the ball, fullbacks can be used as a ball carrier. Fullbacks will usually only run the ball when their team is in a desperate situation, such as inches away from the first down line or goal line.