The position of Center in football is far from the most prestigious. The Center is the man who snaps the ball to the Quarterback during each offensive play. Generally, this is a direct handoff to the Quarterback. Often the Center snaps the ball several yards back to the Quarterback when in ‘shotgun’ formation.
The Center is generally one of the smaller members of the offensive line. In the NFL, 300 pounds and 6 feet tall are standard sizes for Centers.
While there is lack of prestige in the position, the importance of the Center is second only to that of the Quarterback.
The Center is called such as he is the center of the offensive line. The ball is not considered to be in play until the ball has been snapped. The defense is prohibited from crossing the line of scrimmage until the ball has been snapped.
After the snap, the Center becomes the primary protection for the Quarterback. During a running play, the Center’s job is to block the defense from reaching the Quarterback. If the play is a passing play, the Center is responsible for protecting the Quarterback from being sacked or tackled.
The Center also determines direction of the offensive line after snap, based on lineup of defense and stance of players. He communicates with the rest of the offensive line using verbal and physical signals to alert them of the direction of play.
If the Center can ‘draw’ a defenseman offsides prior to the snap, a penalty will be called and results in yards gained for the offense.
The Center often plays a role during special teams situations, whether acting as a long snapper for a punter or as ball-holder for a place kicker. In the NFL, however, the Center does not hold this position in special teams.
Famous Centers who have been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame include Mike Webster, Jim Otto, Chuck Bednarik, Frank Gatski, Jim Langer, Bruce Matthews, Jim Ringo and Dwight Stephenson.
Notable Centers who are actively playing in the NFL include Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens; Justin Hartwig, Pittsburgh Steelers; Dan Koppen, New England Patriots; Olin Kreutz, Chicago Bears; Jamaal Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles; and Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts.
Several college Centers were selected in the 2009 NFL draft, including Alex Mack by the Cleveland Browns, Eric Wood by the Buffalo Bills, Jonathan Luigs by the Cincinnati Bengals, AQ Shipley by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Blake Schlueter by the Denver Broncos, and Antoine Caldwell by the Houston Texans.