The Her Campus FSU Guide to Pro Football

Foot·ball (ˈfo͝otˌbôl/) - “a form of team game played in North America with an oval ball on a field marked out as a gridiron.”

Sounds simple, right? Well, we all know that football is not the easiest sport to understand by any means. Take soccer for example - all they do is run back and forth trying to kick the ball into the opposing persons net. Football has so many rules, regulations and game plays that it can be hard to keep up. What even is that yellow line consistently being shown on the television screen? For all of my fellow Collegiettes who are sick and tired of hearing “Girls don’t watch football” and “They don’t even know what’s going on” then here is your guide to the basics of professional football. Watch out guys, it’s a new day and age.


The National Football League (NFL) consists of 32 teams that are split into two conferences: American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). Each conference is split into four divisions (North, South, East and West). There are 11 players on each side of the ball (offense and defense), combining for a total of 22 players on the field. Teams can be penalized for having an extra player on the field by the time play starts. 

Courtesy: NFL Blogs


A regulation size football field is 100 yards with end zones measuring thirty yards at either opposite end of the field. The white long lines are ten yards apart with shorter white lines along the sides of the field to represent each incremental one yard. In order for the offense to get a first down they must go the full 10 yards. The more yardage the offense gets, the most first downs they have and then the closer they are to scoring a touchdown. The offense has four downs, or chances to get the first down. If the offense fails to do so on third down, then they usually will kick it off on the fourth down. The yellow line that you typically see on your television is the first down line that the team must cross over in order to receive a first down and continue on offense. 

Courtesy: Pro Football Fans

Courtesy: Junction


A touchdown is worth six points. A team can also choose to go for an extra point, which is essentially a field goal or a two-point conversion. In a two-point conversion, the team must cross the ball into the end zone. If a team does not make a touchdown but are close, they will choose to kick a field goal, which is worth three points.


There are four quarters in a football game. Each quarter is 15 minutes long. If the game is tied at the end of regulation then the game will continue into a 15 minute overtime. The first team to score a touchdown wins the game. If a team is only able to score a field goal, then the other team has a chance to score as well.



There are two main ways for the offense to move the ball down the field and that is either with a pass or a run. Here is the basic run-through of what the offense does during a play.

1. Quarterback ("QB") passes or hands off the ball. (Ex. Jameis Winston).

2. The center snaps the ball to the QB and blocks the defense.

3. Two guards and two tackles block as well.

4. Two to four wide receivers will move out to catch the ball thrown by the QB depending on the play. (Ex. Calvin Johnson).

5. One to two running backs take the ball from the QB and run it. (Ex. Adrian Peterson).

6. One to two tight ends block the defense and can also catch passes. (Ex. Rob Gronkowski).

Courtesy: NFL


The main goal of the defense is to stop the offense from advancing down the field by tackling them. Here is a run-through of what they do during a typical play.

1. Linebackers defend against the pass, stop the run or tackle the QB.

2. The defensive line (defensive ends and defensive tackles) go against the offensive line directly. (Ex. JJ Watt).

3. Cornerbacks and safeties defend against the pass from the QB to the wide receiver and help to stop the run. (Ex. Richard Sherman).

Courtesy: Ducksters


A safety is when the offensive player is tackled in the end zone so the opposing team receives two points. A turnover is when the offense accidentally turns the ball over to the defense. This can happen with an interception where the defense catches the ball that was meant for an offensive player or with a fumble where the offense lets the ball loose and the defense recovers it.

These are just the basics of professional football. There are some other logistics that go into it such as penalties; but who has time for all of that. The next time your dad, brother, boyfriend, guy friends, coworkers, or whoever is giving you crap about not knowing what you’re talking about just remember these tips to shut ‘em up. *Hair flip*

Courtesy: Giphy