The kickoff is one of the most exciting parts of a football game. I know it is for me anyway. There is no score yet, hopes are high and the anticipation of what the game holds gets everyone to their feet to cheer as the kicking team lines up to get the game underway.
The kicking team will line up on the field. The player kicking the ball is called the placekicker. He will have 5 teammates on his left and 5 teammates on his right lined up next to him. These 11 players make up what is called a special team. Not to be confused with the regular offense and defense. We will talk more about special teams later in this series.
The ball is in front of the placekicker and sits on a tee. In pro football the tee is 1 inch tall. In high school and college football the tee is 2 inches tall.
The team kicking the ball will be defending the goal on their side. A player on the other team will catch the ball and may try to run forward as far as he can before the team that kicked the ball stops him. Wherever he gets stopped will determine where the next play starts.
Sometimes the player that is going to catch the ball waves his arm in the air before catching the ball. This means that he is not going to try to run at all and therefore the defenders do not need to try and stop him. The next play will start where he caught the ball. This is called a “fair catch”.
Other times the ball gets kicked all the way over the other team player’s heads and lands in the end zone or past the end zone. This is called a “touchback” and when this occurs, the first play of the game will start on the offense’s 20 yard line in the pros and on the 25 yard line in college.
Sometimes the ball gets kicked and it goes out of bounds on one of the two sides of the field. When this happens the play will begin on the offense’s 35 yard line.
In this photo you can see that the kicker is in the center of his 10 teammates. They start in a line. The players on the other team that will most likely catch the ball are marked as receivers. The other players, with yellow circles around them, will try to stop the kicking team from getting to their receiver.
Wherever the play ends, or the point at which the receiver gets tackled, will mark the spot for the next set of plays and the next part of our series……. called Downs!