How I Play Fullback

Sept. 26, 1960
Sept. 26, 1960

Table of Contents
Sept. 26, 1960

Thoroughbred Racing
Baltimore Bubble
High Level
A Brave Challenge
National Football League Preview
College Football
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back
Photo Credits: AP

How I Play Fullback

Jim Brown, the Cleveland Browns' explosive line-plunging fullback, gained fame as a college halfback while at Syracuse. In the next four pages he reveals how that early training led to his present success

Tough but tricky Jim Brown has led the National Football League in rushing in each of his three years as a professional. In 1958 he set a record by rushing for 1,527 yards, tied another with 18 touchdowns and, in all, has gained 3,798 yards at 5.1 yards a try.

This is an article from the Sept. 26, 1960 issue Original Layout

Little things that mean a lot

At the beginning of a play, I literally use a three-point stance (above left). My right toe is on a line a bit behind the left heel. My head is up, I am balanced lightly by my right fingertips and I am in a position, coming out of the crouch, to look for my opening and blockers. For the hand-off (above right) my hands are held palms up. As soon as I get the ball I tuck it away (below left); to make it secure, I cup a hand over one end of the ball and put the other end in the crook of my elbow. I still have one arm free to fight off tacklers, and this is one of my most important weapons. I realize this does not jibe with the classic notion of the fullback (below right) as a power man who wraps both arms around the ball, puts his head down and runs straight ahead. This is not wrong, but I like to think and run like a halfback, and I still prefer speed and shiftiness to straight-ahead power.

Combat arm

When a tackier closes in I counteract his force with two blows: one with my shoulder, the other with my free arm. I do not ram him with my head, but I do tuck my body lower to gather my strength. First I knock him off balance with my corresponding shoulder (right against right, left against left). Then I deliver a full, powerful blow with my forearm, aiming it for his chest or midsection.

If I am hit low (right) I dip down to get a better blow with my forearm. This forces the tackier back and gives him less of a shot at my legs. I pivot at the same time and hope to get free.

If I am hit high (left) I strike with my shoulder (at an angle, so I can glance off) and swiftly bring my forearm up at the tackier with a pendulum-like swing.

If I am caught by an ankle, I remember that every inch counts and try twice to break away. But it is easy to get hurt in this situation, so I do not pull too hard. If I know I am caught, I dive forward and settle for two valuable yards. When I am hit squarely, I shake and move every muscle I have. Sometimes I manage to get loose.

If I am stymied on a play such as this, where I have to get over the almost-joined legs of my linemen, I sidestep, hop over the legs, pivot as I land on my right foot in this case) and swiftly bring the left leg over. For an instant my back is turned, but I am nailing and spinning much too quickly to be a good target for a tackier.

Every trick helps

A fumble in the backfield can be disastrous. I have found that by scooping the ball with one hand (top)—ideally with the hand opposite the foot closer to the ball—I can keep running and turn a potential loss into a gain. I take pitchouts on the run (center), and this head start enables me to pivot or cut more quickly. Once I have the ball, I love to run, but sometimes—as below, when the tacklers submarine under our linemen—I dive over the line. Generally, I do this only on short-yardage plays. I would not advise diving at other times. I do not run as low as most fullbacks. When there is an opening I run almost straight up. When there is a small hole I run lower, leading with my shoulder but keeping my eyes up. If the running room is tight I hit and spin. Jumps and spins are part of my "halfback attitude." To get a better shot at a tackier I sometimes shift the ball from one hand to the other. I never do this in close quarters, for it is too easy to fumble and a back's real function is to get through or around the line with the ball.