Holder (gridiron football)

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Jake Schum holding for a field goal attempt. Jacob Schum (cropped).jpg
Jake Schum holding for a field goal attempt.

In gridiron football, the holder is the player who receives the snap from the long snapper during field goal or extra point attempts made by the placekicker. The holder is set on one knee seven yards behind the line-of-scrimmage. Before the play begins, he places the hand which is closest to the placekicker on the ground in a location designated by the kicker's foot, with his forward hand ready to receive the snap (In high school games, the holder/kicker combo is responsible for a kicking block, which lifts the ball off the turf). After receiving the snap, the holder will place the football on the turf, or block, ideally with the laces facing the uprights and the ball accurately placed where the backhand was initially, then balancing the ball with one or two fingers until the ball is kicked.


For the kick to be successful, the holder needs to do more than just place the ball on the ground. Before the snap, the kicker will approach and will mark a certain spot. He will then take his steps backward to prepare for the kick. When the ball snaps, the holder is responsible for making sure that the ball is placed directly on that spot, the laces of the football are facing outward to produce better contact with the football, and that it is leaning in the direction that the kicker has specified. [1]

The holder, like the placekicker and the long snapper, is protected from intentional contact from the opposing team. The penalty for roughing the holder is 15 yards and an automatic first down.

Technique of Holding

The technique behind holding is fairly similar no matter where you go. The main goal is to place the ball down on the exact spot with the exact tilt and lean that the kicker expects. To do this, the holder wants to be parallel with the line of scrimmage (For a left-footed kicker you will be on the left side and for a right-footed kicker you will be to their right). The front knee of the holder will be on the ground with their back knee up. The kicker will mark the spot with their toe. The holder then puts the fingers of their back hand on the spot as a marking. As the holder, you want to have your arm close to straight and align to the spot so that the spot is at the midpoint of the body to slightly behind the midpoint. As a holder, you want to stay low to the ground in a tight position to be able to control the catching and placement of the ball and to reduce the movement needed to position it.

When the kicker is set, you hold your front hand up as a target for the long snapper. when the ball is snapped, the holder brings their back hand off the spot to catch the ball and then needs to place the ball on the spot. After the ball is caught, the holder needs to locate the original spot with their eyes and precisely place it. It is important to note that it needs to be the exact same spot. If not, the kicker's plant foot might be too close or too far away from the ball, or they could strike the ball too high up or hit the ground behind the ball. After the ball is placed, the holder needs to make sure the laces are faced forward. If the kicker kicks the laces, it can cause the ball to veer off course. The holder holds the ball with their back hand and uses their front hand to spin the ball so the laces are facing forward.

The holder needs to make sure they do not remove their hand. The kicker should kick the bottom half of the ball and to let go of the ball would cause the ball to fall over. After the kick, the holder should keep his eyes on the spot. Looking up after the ball too soon could cause the holder to accidentally move the ball as the kicker is kicking it. If the snap is high, it is the job of the holder to make the decision on whether to try and place the ball on the spot for the kick, or to abort the kick and try to run a backup play that is usually a holder scramble or a pass.

Depth chart position

Mitch Berger as a holder with the snap on the way MitchBergerHolder.JPG
Mitch Berger as a holder with the snap on the way

Compared to other American football positions, the holder is one of the most trivial positions, requiring precision in the receipt of a snap and placement of a ball in a short time, but requiring far less physical talent than a skill position and much less bulk or strength than a lineman. Each NFL Team is only allowed to have 53 players on their roster along with 10 practice squad spots. [2] Because of this, it is exceptionally rare for a team to preserve a roster spot solely for a placekick holder; most teams will instead use a player who plays another position to double as the holder. One notable exception was Patricia Palinkas, the first female professional football player; Palinkas played holder (and no other position) during her short time as a pro player. [3]

The holder's actual position, on the team's official depth chart, is generally either the punter or the backup quarterback. Some high school football teams will place a wide receiver or running back at the holder position because of their good hands (this is not unheard of at other levels; Steve Tasker, a wide receiver and punt gunner, also played holder at various times in his NFL career, as does his son Luke Tasker, also a wide receiver. Others include tight end Jay Novacek safeties Paul Krause and Keith Lyle).

Backup quarterback

The rationale for having a backup quarterback holding is that the quarterback is accustomed to receiving snaps from the center and long snaps from the shotgun formation. He also provides a threat for a fake field goal since the quarterback can throw a pass on such plays. Additionally, in the event of a bad snap and an aborted kick attempt, the holder might have to become the quarterback for the play, so having an actual quarterback helps in that regard. Years ago[ when? ] in the NFL, backup quarterbacks generally held for field goal kicks.[ citation needed ]

Having the backup quarterback play as the holder has faded out in the NFL, mainly due to a rule in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement that prohibited a team's third-string quarterback from playing except in emergencies (this was repealed in the 2011 CBA, but since that time, most NFL teams have only carried two quarterbacks on the active roster).[ citation needed ] However, such usage has remained rather common in collegiate football. Many times a quarterback who was a redshirt freshman will serve as the holder his sophomore year. It is also common in other professional leagues such as the Arena Football League (where there is no punting and are thus no punters) or the Canadian Football League, where roster size restrictions generally result in one person serving as both placekicker and punter.

Chicago Bears punter Brad Maynard (#4) holds for placekicker Robbie Gould. Robbie Gould kicking.jpg
Chicago Bears punter Brad Maynard (#4) holds for placekicker Robbie Gould.


San Francisco 49ers kicker Joe Nedney prepares to kick an extra point with punter Andy Lee as the holder, 2008 Joe Nedney kicks PAT at Rams at 49ers 11-16-08.JPG
San Francisco 49ers kicker Joe Nedney prepares to kick an extra point with punter Andy Lee as the holder, 2008

In today's NFL, most teams use their punter as a holder. New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick explained that punters are generally holders for the reason that punters and kickers usually have more time together to game plan, watch film, and are able to have more reps during practice than a player who has to play another position. [4]


There are a few NFL teams that still use a quarterback as their holder.

New Orleans Saints – The Saints tend to run more fake field goals than any other team, and due to that they generally keep a backup in as their holder (this keeps opposing defenses in more of a zone coverage, and also helps to prevent blocked field goals). Their holder for a period was quarterback Luke McCown but is now punter Thomas Morstead. In 1970, Saints kicker Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal, which for many years thereafter was the all-time record. Dempsey's holder was a defensive back named Joe Scarpati. There has been an urban myth going around during the intervening decades that the holder on this legendary kick was the team's colorful starting quarterback, Billy Kilmer, who did hold on occasion. [5]

Dallas Cowboys – When Tony Romo was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, he was their backup quarterback, and as the backup quarterback, part of his job was to be the team's holder. Romo was replaced by the punter in 2010, but due to many mishandled snaps, which resulted in missed field goals, Romo returned as the team's official holder. The Cowboys hired a more experienced holder, Brian Moorman, in 2012; Moorman left the team at the end of the season. Throughout the 1990s, starting tight end Jay Novacek was the usual holder on kicks.

Las Vegas Raiders – The Raiders' Matt Schaub was used as the holder during the 2014 season. Previously, Daryle Lamonica (1967–69) and Ken Stabler (1970-75) held for George Blanda; when Blanda retired in 1976, the holding duties were assumed by punter Ray Guy, who continued to do so through his retirement following the 1986 season.

Denver Broncos – The Broncos used to have former starting quarterback Jake Plummer as their holder and continued to do so even after he was benched in favor of Jay Cutler. When Plummer retired, the Broncos started to use their punter as their holder.

Washington Football Team – Starting quarterback Joe Theismann held for Mark Moseley from the late 1970s until he suffered his career-ending broken leg during a 1985 Monday Night Football game vs. the New York Giants.

Seattle SeahawksSteve Largent, a wide receiver, was the kick holder, and in 1985, he ran in a muffed snap for an extra point. [6]

Other responsibilities

During a "fake field goal" attempt the holder may pick the ball up and either throw a forward pass or run with the ball (i.e., act as the quarterback would on a standard play). In addition, the holder may attempt a run or pass if the snap is botched and a successful kick is unlikely. However, this rarely succeeds; the holder is usually tackled promptly.

There can also be a holder during kickoffs and free kicks, but this is reserved for when the ball tee cannot keep the ball up by itself, usually due to wind. In such a case, the holder can be of any position and, because kickoffs involve a much higher risk of being involved in a tackling play, is usually a defensive player of some sort.


Given the trivial nature of the position, no award for holders existed until 2015 when Peter Mortell, then a senior punter and holder for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and known for his humor, [7] created a tongue-in-cheek "Holder of the Year" Award for the best holder in college football, named it after himself, and made himself its first recipient. [8] [9] [10] ESPN recognized the award at their yearly ESPY Awards ceremony (alongside more serious, major position awards), with Mortell accepting via pre-recorded video. [11] The award subsequently continued and was awarded in 2016 to senior quarterback/holder Garrett Moores of Michigan. [12] [13] In 2017, the award was given to Connor McGinnis of Oklahoma. [14]

Related Research Articles

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Placekicker Player position in American and Canadian football

Placekicker, or simply kicker, is the player in gridiron football who is responsible for the kicking duties of field goals and extra points. In many cases, the placekicker also serves as the team's kickoff specialist or punter as well.

Comparison of American and Canadian football

American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar; both have their origins in rugby football, but some key differences exist.

Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.

Punter (football) Gridiron football special teams position

A punter (P) in gridiron football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in Canadian football. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Center (gridiron football) Position in American and Canadian football

Center (C) is a position in gridiron football. The center is the innermost lineman of the offensive line on a football team's offense. The center is also the player who passes the ball between his legs to the quarterback at the start of each play.

Russell Erxleben is a former American football player and currency investor. He shares the record for the longest successful field goal in NCAA history at 67 yards, which he set in 1977 while playing for the University of Texas. Erxleben was a three-time All-America punter. He was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, an extremely rare occurrence for a kicker. After an NFL career lasting six years, he became a currency investor. Convicted of securities fraud in 1999, he was released from federal prison in 2005. He was again convicted of investment fraud in 2014 and sentenced to 90 months in federal prison.

Long snapper

In gridiron football, the long snapper is a special teams specialist whose duty is to snap the football over a longer distance, typically around 15 yards during punts, and 7–8 yards during field goals and extra point attempts.

A trick play, also known as a gadget play, gimmick play or trickeration, is a play in gridiron football that uses deception and unorthodox tactics to fool the opposing team. A trick play is often risky, offering the potential for a large gain or a touchdown if it is successful, but with the chance of a significant loss of yards or a turnover if not. Trick plays are rarely used not only because of the riskiness, but also to maintain the element of surprise for when they are used.

American football positions Specific roles that players take in American football

In American football, the specific role that a player takes on the field is referred to as their "position." Under the modern rules of American football, both teams are allowed 11 players on the field at one time and have "unlimited free substitutions," meaning that they may change any number of players during any "dead ball" situation. This has resulted in the development of three task-specific "platoons" of players within any single team: the offense, the defense, and the so-called 'special teams'. Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the jobs that the players are doing.

Field goal

A field goal (FG) is a means of scoring in gridiron football. To score a field goal, the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. American football requires that a field goal must only come during a play from scrimmage, while Canadian football retains open field kicks and thus field goals may be scored at any time from anywhere on the field and by any player. The vast majority of field goals, in both codes, are place kicked. Drop kicked field goals were common in the early days of gridiron football but are almost never done in modern times. In most leagues, a successful field goal awards three points.

A kickoff specialist is a seldom-used position in gridiron football. Kickoff specialists are members of the special teams. They are responsible for kicking the ball in the kickoff. These players tend to have a strong leg, often capable of making touchbacks, and capable of keeping a ball in the bounds of the field of play but do not have the accuracy or technique required to be a full-time placekicker or punter. Some kickoff specialists later become full-time placekickers, while some are marginal placekickers who are soon out of football.

The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.

Field goal range is the part of the field in American football where there is a good chance that a field goal attempt will be successful.

A fake field goal is a trick play in American football. Simply, it involves a running or passing play done out of a kick formation. Usually the holder will throw or run. Less frequently, the placekicker, who virtually never handles the ball in an American football game, will serve as the passer or rusher on a fake field goal.

Punt (gridiron football)

In gridiron football, a punt is a kick performed by dropping the ball from the hands and then kicking the ball before it hits the ground. The most common use of this tactic is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes. The result of a typical punt, barring any penalties or extraordinary circumstances, is a first down for the receiving team. A punt is not to be confused with a drop kick, a kick after the ball hits the ground, now rare in both American and Canadian football.

A Kicking specialist or kick specialist and sometimes referred to a "kicker", especially when referring to a placekicker, is a player on gridiron football special teams who performs punts, kickoffs, field goals and/or point after touchdowns. The special teams counterpart of a kicking specialist is a return specialist.


  1. "How to Hold for a Field Goal". PRO TIPS by DICK'S Sporting Goods. 2019-08-14. Retrieved 2021-03-07.
  2. "Inside new NFL roster rules for 2020: Expanded rosters, practice squad and injured reserve". ESPN.com. 2020-09-09. Retrieved 2021-02-27.
  3. Associated Press (1970-09-04). "First woman to earn place on pro grid team is also suspended." Retrieved 2010-12-25.
  4. Jeff Howe (September 13, 2013). "Football nerd alert!: Bill Belichick explains the history of using the punter as a holder". bostonherald.com. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpAKuS04MP4
  6. "Largent.jpg (image)". 3.bp.blogspot.com.
  7. Apr 2, foxsports; ET, 2015 at 9:10p (April 2, 2015). "Gophers punter Mortell is all business on field, all comedian on Twitter". FOX Sports.
  8. "SVP salutes Minnesota's holder - ESPN Video". ESPN.com. December 3, 2015.
  9. "Big Ten punters are now battling over an award they made up for themselves". December 3, 2015.
  10. ET, 2015 at 12:37p (December 2, 2015). "Minnesota's Peter Mortell awards himself 'Holder of the Year' for placeholding excellence". FOX Sports.
  11. "Peter Mortell wins first Holder of the Year award - ESPN Video". ESPN.com. December 11, 2015.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. Peter Mortell [@PMortell1] (25 November 2016). "Strongest class we've ever had. Your 2016 Mortell H.O.T.Y finalists:" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  14. "Sidearm Sports". Soonersports.com. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End, Edge rusher Kicking Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Running backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat, Change of pace), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy