Tackle-eligible play

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George Fant wears number 74, making him an ineligible receiver unless he declares himself eligible to the referee before a play. George Fant (American football).JPG
George Fant wears number 74, making him an ineligible receiver unless he declares himself eligible to the referee before a play.

In football, the tackle-eligible play is a forward-pass play in which coaches will attempt to create mismatches against a defense by inserting an offensive tackle (who is not normally allowed more than five yards down field on a forward-pass play), into an offensive formation as an eligible receiver, usually as a tight end or as a fullback. This is done by changing the formation of the offensive line, via positioning two linemen (including the "catching tackle") on one side of the center and three linemen on the other.


Under almost all versions of football, offensive linemen cannot receive or touch forward passes, nor can they advance downfield in passing situations. To identify which receivers are eligible and which are not, football rules stipulate that ineligible receivers must wear a number between 50 and 79. However, in some leagues, normally ineligible receivers may align as an eligible receiver provided they inform the referee of such a change. Typically, a player must leave the field for a single play before returning to their original position.


The official NFL rules stipulate that an offensive player wearing uniform number 50 through 79 (the range of numbers that offensive linemen may wear in that league) may not line up as an eligible receiver, with a violation being penalized as an illegal substitution. However, the rules provide an exception where such a player may become eligible if he declares his intent to the referee prior to the play. [1] The referee then announces that the ineligible number "x" is reporting as an eligible receiver. This announcement is made using the referee's microphone so that spectators and the opposing team can hear. The eligibility is in effect for only one play; the report to the referee must be repeated before every play in which the offense plans to make the player eligible. Similarly, a player whose number is typically "eligible" must report himself ineligible to the referee, otherwise his team would be penalized for illegal formation. An example is when New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen did this in the 2014–15 NFL playoffs versus the Baltimore Ravens. [2]

The tackle-eligible play typically goes unnoticed, but for one prominent exception: when the player reporting as an eligible receiver catches a forward pass (usually for a short touchdown).

The name most commonly associated with the tackle-eligible play is Mike Vrabel, a linebacker wearing jersey number 50, who recorded 10 receptions for 10 touchdowns in his career—including one each in Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl XXXIX—as a member of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. [3]

Cincinnati Bengals' Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz caught seven passes for 18 yards and four touchdowns in his 13-year career. Buffalo Bills' offensive tackle Mitch Frerotte made a name for himself in 1992 by scoring three times in one season (twice on tackle-eligible plays), the best single season ever for an offensive lineman.

A famous use of a tackle-eligible play came in the Monday Night Miracle when New York Jets lineman Jumbo Elliott caught a three-yard touchdown pass to cap a 23-point comeback against the Miami Dolphins.

During the 2018 and 2019 NFL seasons, Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman George Fant garnered attention for his frequent use as a hybrid tight end and extra blocker on tackle-eligible plays. [4] During one 2019 Monday Night Football matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, Fant reported as an eligible receiver 42 times, [5] and helped the Seahawks to rush for a season-high 218 yards and win the game, 37–30. [6]

College football

NCAA rules are less permissive than NFL rules and require that the five interior linemen, numbered 50 through 79, never line up as eligible receivers. [7] If an offensive tackle wishes to line up as a tackle-eligible, he must physically change his jersey number to that of an eligible receiver (this, for example, happened in the 2015 Cotton Bowl, when an offensive lineman for Baylor switched from his usual number of 60 to 80 in order to perform the feat). [8] A defensive lineman can line up as a tight end if his number is not between 50 and 79, as defensive players have no positional numbering restrictions in the NCAA.[ citation needed ]

A similar play is allowed from a kicking formation, where the requirement that all five linemen wear 50 through 79 is waived. During a fake field goal or punt, a team may line up with extra tight ends and receivers, which can confuse the defense about which players are eligible and which are not. This exemption can only be taken when it is obvious that a kick may be attempted, for instance on fourth down, in the closing seconds of a half, or similar situations; it cannot be used on every down at the college level.[ citation needed ]

High school football

Tackle-eligibles are effectively illegal at the high school level; the rules of that level do not even allow declaration. The scrimmage kick formation was once exempt from all numbering requirements, but after the A-11 offense employed the formation as a base offense, the rules were modified in February 2009. No player wearing between 50 and 79 is eligible to receive a pass, and all ineligible receivers (except a long snapper) must wear between 50 and 79 in all cases.

Related Research Articles

In gridiron football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass. Only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and only an eligible receiver may advance beyond the neutral zone if a forward pass crosses into the neutral zone. If the pass is received by a non-eligible receiver, it is "illegal touching". If an ineligible receiver is beyond the neutral zone when a forward pass crossing the neutral zone is thrown, a foul of "ineligible receiver downfield" is called. Each league has slightly different rules regarding who is considered an eligible receiver.

Lineman (gridiron football) American football player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage

In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently in possession of the ball are the offensive line, while linemen on the opposing team are the defensive line. A number of NFL rules specifically address restrictions and requirements for the offensive line, whose job is to help protect the quarterback from getting sacked for a loss, or worse, fumbling. The defensive line is covered by the same rules that apply to all defensive players. Linemen are usually the largest players on the field in both height and weight, since their positions usually require less running and more strength than skill positions.

Wide receiver Offensive position in American and Canadian football

A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, formerly a split end, is an eligible receiver in gridiron football. A key skill position of the offense, it gets its name from the player being split out "wide", farthest away from the rest of the offensive formation.

Tight end Position in American football

The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and Canadian football, on the offense. The tight end is often a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide receiver. Like offensive linemen, they are usually lined up on the offensive line and are large enough to be effective blockers. On the other hand, unlike offensive linemen, they are eligible receivers adept enough to warrant a defense's attention when running pass patterns.

This is a glossary of terms used in Canadian football. The Glossary of American football article also covers many terms that are also used in the Canadian version of the game.

  1. Legally positioned at the kick-off or the snap. On kick-offs, members of the kicking team must be behind the kick-off line; members of the receiving team must be at least 10 yards from the kick-off line. On scrimmages, at the snap the offence must be behind the line of scrimmage; the defence must be at least one yard beyond the line of scrimmage.
  2. A player of the kicking team who can legally recover the kick. The kicker and any teammates behind the ball at the time of the kick are onside. Thus on kick-offs all players of the kicking team are onside, but on other kicks usually only the kicker is. The holder on a place kick is not considered onside.
  1. A defensive position on scrimmages, also called free safety. Typical formations include a single safety, whose main duty is to cover wide receivers. See also defensive back.
  2. A two-point score. The defence scores a safety when the offence carries or passes the ball into its own goal area and then fails to run, pass, or kick the ball back into the field of play; when this term is used in this sense, it is also referred to as a safety touch.

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.

American football rules Rules for American football

Gameplay in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.

A formation in football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a down. There are both offensive and defensive formations and there are many formations in both categories. Sometimes, formations are referred to as packages.

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.

In American football, a play is a close-to-the-ground plan of action or strategy used to move the ball down the field. A play begins at either the snap from the center or at kickoff. Most commonly, plays occur at the snap during a down. These plays range from basic to very intricate. Football players keep a record of these plays in a playbook.

Uniform number (American football)

Uniform numbers in American football are unusual compared to those in other sports. They are displayed in more locations on the uniform; they are universally worn on both the front and back of the jersey; and in many cases "TV numbers" are displayed on either the jersey sleeves, the shoulder pad, or occasionally on the helmets. The numbers on the front and back of the jersey also are very large, covering most of the jersey. More importantly, certain numbers may only be worn by players playing specific positions; thus, the jersey numbers assist the officials in determining possible rules infractions by players.

The A-11 offense is an offensive scheme that has been used in some levels of amateur American football. In this offense, a loophole in the rules governing kicking formations is used to disguise which offensive players would be eligible to receive a pass for any given play. It was designed by Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries of Piedmont High School in California.

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.

The Gene Upshaw Award is awarded to the best lineman, offensive or defensive, in NCAA Division II college football. The award is presented by the Manheim Touchdown Club and is recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In gridiron football, an ineligible receiver downfield, or an ineligible man downfield, is a penalty called against the offensive team when a forward pass is thrown while a player who is ineligible to receive a pass is beyond the line of scrimmage without blocking an opponent at the time of the pass. A player is determined ineligible based on his position at the time of the snap. When the ball is snapped, the offense is required to have no more than eleven players on the field, out of whom only six are eligible. On most plays, the eligible receivers include the quarterback, running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers, while the ineligible receivers are offensive linemen, including the center, offensive guards, and offensive tackles.

Players in the National Football League wear uniform numbers between 1 and 99, with no two players on a team able to wear the same number outside of the offseason. Rules exist which tie a player's number to a specific range of numbers for their primary position. Additionally, rules exist which limit who may handle the ball on offense: generally players who are designated as offensive lineman, who wear numbers 50–79, are not allowed to handle the ball during a play from scrimmage, though they are allowed to do so if they report to the referee as playing out of position for a tackle-eligible play.

George Fant (American football) American football offensive tackle

George Fant is an American football offensive tackle for the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He played college basketball and football at Western Kentucky, and was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Starting in 2018, Fant was used as a hybrid tight end on tackle-eligible plays for Seattle.


  1. "Rule 5 of Official NFL Playing Rules" (PDF). National Football League. 2013.
  2. "Patriots' receiver-eligibility tactic could catch on". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 18, 2015
  3. "Mike Vrabel NFL Football Statistics". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved August 1, 2016
  4. "So Often Eligible, "No. 74" George Fant Finally Gets His First NFL Catch".
  5. "Seahawks MVP for game 12: The unsung hero George Fant". 2 December 2019.
  6. "Seattle's extra lineman tips the balance in its favor all night".
  7. "NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations" (PDF). NCAA. 2011. Rule 7, Section 1, Article 4.
  8. Stephenson, Craig (January 2, 2015). Watch Baylor's 390-pound lineman LaQuon McGowan catch TD pass in Cotton Bowl against Michigan State. AL.com. Retrieved January 2, 2015.