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Pulling Techniques: Leading the Way on Outside Runs

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    Sports Tips

Pulling Techniques: Leading the Way on Outside Runs

Pulling as a center might just be one of the most underappreciated skills in football. When executed flawlessly, it can turn a decent run into a breakaway play. In this guide, we delve into the nitty-gritty of pulling techniques for centers, emphasizing the essentials like footwork, timing, and identifying defensive targets in open space.

The Foundation: Footwork

The success of a pull block starts with precise, lightning-quick footwork. Here’s the step-by-step breakdown:

  1. Snap and Initial Step

    • Execution: Upon snapping the ball, the center must pivot their back foot quickly in the direction of the pull.
    • Key Point: This pivot should be explosive but controlled, setting up the entire motion.
  2. Crossover Step

    • Execution: The crossover step involves crossing the front leg over the back leg in one fluid motion.
    • Key Point: Proper balance and body lean are essential here to maintain speed and agility.
  3. Additional Steps (Gallop Steps)

    • Execution: Continue with fast, short steps, maintaining a low center of gravity. This keeps the center balanced and ready to react.
    • Key Point: Eyes should be up, scanning the field for defenders.

Footwork Summary Table

StepDescriptionKey Focus
Snap & PivotQuick back foot pivot post-snapExplosiveness, Control
CrossoverCross front leg over back legBalance, Fluidity
Gallop StepsQuick, short additional stepsLow center of gravity, Scanning field

Timing: The Unseen Hero

Timing the pull is crucial; a split-second too early or late can disrupt the entire play.

  • Count on instinct and practice: Centers must rely on a combination of muscle memory and instinct, cultivated through repetition.
  • Pause and proceed: Occasionally, a slight hesitation is warranted to let the play develop.

Timing Tips

  • Practice drills with varied snap counts to mimic game situations.
  • Visual cues: Often, reading the action of the guards and tackles can provide clues for when exactly to begin the pull.

Targeting Defensive Players

A center’s ability to effectively target defensive players in space is a game-changer. The focus here is on anticipating defensive movements and blocking in space.

Steps to Effective Targeting

  1. Field Awareness

    • Execution: Upon initiating the pull, constantly assess the layout of defensive players.
    • Key Point: Identify your primary target – typically the first defender in your lane – but be ready to adapt if the situation changes.
  2. Engagement

    • Execution: Engage the defender with a solid block, aiming for their inside shoulder to seal the lane.
    • Key Point: Use proper blocking technique, leveraging your lower body strength to drive the defender out of the play.
  3. Open-Field Adjustments

    • Execution: If primary target changes direction, be nimble and adjust to block the closest threat.
    • Key Point: Flexibility and reactive speed are essential to adapt to dynamic game scenarios.

Targeting Summary Table

StepDescriptionKey Focus
Field AwarenessConstant assessment of defensive layoutIdentification, Adaptability
EngagementSolid block on the defender's inside shoulderTechnique, Leverage
AdjustmentsQuick adaptations to block the closest threatFlexibility, Reactive Speed

Words from the Pros

Player Insight

  • Jake Matthews, NFL Center: "Your agility as a center can make you invaluable during outside runs. Be quick on your feet, trust your training, and always keep your head on a swivel."

Coaching Wisdom

  • Coach Tom Johnson: "I've always told my centers that the art of pulling combines the grace of a dancer with the power of a linebacker. Perfect the small steps, and the big plays will come."


Pulling as a center on outside runs is a blend of calculated movements, impeccable timing, and keen field awareness. Master these elements, and you’ll provide the linchpin for some game-breaking plays.

By breaking down the techniques and emphasizing practical tips and tricks, this guide aims to refine the pulling skills of Centers, paving the way for consistently dominant outside runs.