Oh, snap! Want to learn how to snap a football? You’ve come to the right place. In this section, we’ve prepared a detailed guide on how to properly snap a football in a wide variety of positions and stances. Make sure to read up so you, and your team, are fully prepared for your next practice or game.
The snap is an important part of any football game, both tackle and flag, as it signifies the start of an offensive play. The snap involves two players—the quarterback and the center. When the teams are lined up and in formation for the beginning of a play, the quarterback calls “hike” to signal the start of the offensive play. While there are many slight variations of a snap, the center ultimately then either hands or tosses the football between their legs to the quarterback who is waiting to receive the football. This motion and exchange of the ball from center to quarterback marks the point when both offensive and defensive players can start their respective routes and plays.
Per NFL FLAG rules, each time the ball is snapped counts as one of the four downs allotted to cross midfield. If the team crosses midfield within the allotted four downs, the offensive team then has three snaps, or downs, to score a touchdown.
Note: These rules may alter if you aren’t playing in an official NFL FLAG league. We recommend you consult with your league’s rulebook and referees about how many downs are allotted per position, amongst other rules.
In snap football, the center has two options of gameplay after snapping the ball to the quarterback.
First, the center can stay behind the line of scrimmage and play as a shield, or block, for the quarterback, using lateral movements. This allows the quarterback to have more time to either throw or handoff the ball to an open receiver. In NFL FLAG leagues, blocking consists of raised hands with open palms, however, arms can never be fully extended or crossed.
Second, the center can release, either above or below the line of scrimmage, to open themselves up for a pass. In this option, the quarterback has an additional receiver for offensive gameplay, but loses any sort of blocking from defensive advances.
These center drills are designed to teach you how to snap a football using a variety of stances and techniques—so you can find your sweet spot as a center.
Setup: The one hand square stance is likely the stance you envision when you think about how to snap a football. To get in this stance, spread your legs just outside of shoulder-width apart, bending your knees to lower your center of gravity. Make sure that both of your feet are squared off and parallel to the line of scrimmage. During this, you are bent over with one hand on the ball either behind or on the line of scrimmage.
Directions: Upon hike, carry the football through your legs until you meet the quarterback's hands, which will complete the handoff.
Tips: Make sure that your head is behind the ball during games and football center drills. If your head crosses the line of scrimmage before the hike, it’s considered offsides.
Setup: The two hand square stance setup is similar to the look of the one hand square stance in snap football. Make sure your legs are parallel to the line of scrimmage, spread fairly wide apart. Bend your knees and lean forward toward the ball, evenly distributing your weight between your legs, ankles, and feet. Grasp the football with both hands, on either side of the ball.
Directions: To do this snap in snap football, either during a game or during football center drills, use both hands to carry the football through your legs until it meets the quarterback’s waiting hands.
Tips: Press the palms of your hand into the ball when you’re in your stance. This pressure creates a tight spiral that the quarterback can easily catch.
Setup: For the one hand staggered stance, plant your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. However, instead of having both of your feet parallel with the line of scrimmage, have one foot slightly farther back, anywhere from six inches to a foot. This places you in a more angled, staggered stance. Once your feet are in position for this center drill, bend over the football, and grasp it with the hand paired with the staggered foot.
Directions: Once in position, cup the football with one hand, then pull it through your legs until you meet the quarterback’s waiting hands. After you hand off the ball, you can either release as a receiver, or assist defensively by blocking for the quarterback.
Tips: It doesn’t matter which foot you choose to stagger. Try both out when doing football center drills until you learn which one feels more comfortable.
Setup: Plant your feet slightly outside of shoulder-width apart, bending your knees to lower your center of gravity. Make sure one foot is planted six inches to one foot further back than the other, creating the staggered stance. Your torso should be bent over the ball, without your head crossing the line of scrimmage (this is considered offsides). Then, grip the football with both hands, one on either side of the ball.
Directions: Once the quarterback calls hike, carry the ball with both hands through the middle of your legs until you meet the hands of the quarterback, which should be waiting for your exchange.
Tips: Make sure that your knees are always bent while snapping the football. This creates a more firm, grounded position as a center, allowing you to quickly block for your quarterback if needed. This stance also allows you to change direction easier, making you a more effective receiver upon release.
Setup: During a shotgun snap, the initial setup can be any of the four other types of snaps—one hand square stance, two hand square stance, one hand staggered stance, or two hand staggered stance. In every stance, your feet are slightly farther than shoulder-width apart and your knees bent, while leaning over the ball. The difference in a shotgun snap is that the quarterback is not directly behind the center. Instead, they’ll position themselves anywhere from five to 10 yards directly behind the center.
Directions: When the quarterback calls hike, you will shoot (like a shotgun, get it?) the ball between your legs—either with one or both hands—to the quarterback behind you. Make sure your hands follow through when shooting the ball backward, as it will help you achieve top speed and strength of your snap. Since the quarterback is five to 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, this will give them more time to execute the play before defensive players can reach them.
Tips: When practicing how to snap a football, make sure to incorporate long snapping drills, which is a more advanced technique. Additionally, remember to look backward between your legs at the quarterback when using a shotgun snap so that you can visualize your target.
The center is one of the most important offensive positions in an NFL FLAG game. Not only does the center start off every play by hiking the ball to the quarterback, but they can also be a key defensive unit by blocking for the quarterback or releasing from the line of scrimmage to become an additional receiver.
We recommend incorporating football center drills into your regular practices and routines. Make sure to try all the various stances and snaps, until you find your special center sweet spot. If you practice your fundamentals, you’ll become an expert center in no time—or maybe even in a snap.