The center, like all the other members of a football team, should be active and fast on his feet and should above all things be strong and steady. No one but a man who is absolutely cool in all his work should attempt to play the important position of center. No play can start without first having the assistance of the center, and if he fails in any way the play will generally result in no gain or the loss of the ball. The center must follow the ball all the time; wherever the ball is, there the center must be also. No team can play a clean-cut, fast game if the center is slow.
The center's position for passing must depend largely upon his build and make-up. He should stand with one foot back and to the side of the other, judging the distance "by his feeling of security on his feet. But his rear foot must not be too far back nor his feet too far apart. He must assume a good, strong position, ready to resist a charge from the front or a pull in the same direction.
The ball should be carefully passed with both hands. The movement should be more in the nature of a snap of the fingers and wrist, than a pass of the arms. The center must always remember not to change the direction or speed of his passes. A good motto to follow is:
"Not too hard, not too slow; Not too high, not too low."
No quarter can handle irregular passing without mistakes. Many of the fumbles made by the quarter are due to the unsteadiness of the center. Under the present rules the work of the center in passing has been much extended by the addition of the direct pass to the half, quarter or full back for a run around tackle or end. Hence the center must be very proficient in his passing to make all these plays go off smoothly. The ball should go back accurately or there will be fumbles and delays.
On all offensive plays, the center knows on which side of the line the attack is to be made and should go through between the opposing center and the play. After he has gotten through he can block off part of the opponents' secondary line of defense and assist the runner by pulling, pushing or giving him additional interference.
On defense, the work of the center is very important and varied. He should do almost as much tackling as the defensive quarter back, especially if the line is attacked between the two tackles. His position on the defense is a much freer one than that of either guard. He can shift his position from in front to either side of the opposing center, being careful, however, to work always with the offensive quarter. There is no one who is in a better position to size up the opponents' play before it is started than the center. He should watch the ball all the time and, simultaneously, the opposing backs. He should play close to his man and charge him hard with both hands, arms stiff, the instant the ball is put into play. As has been said, no lineman should ever be caught "up in the air," but should always play low and charge low. He should work with his guard in breaking through the line.
After he has charged his man the center should go wherever the play leads him. If he is on the defensive and the play is not at his position, he should go back of his own line and stop the runner. He can often do this even when the play is far out towards the end.
The center must be very careful in his pass to the full back for a kick. He should practice different ways of passing, finally choosing that plan which gives the quickest and truest results. After the pass he should protect the kicker, then go down under the punt, directly under the ball. When the opponents punt, the center, working with the two guards, should break through and block the kick. The center and the guards may allow the quarter to break through, but this is hardly advisable, since the opposing full back may run with the ball on a direct pass. It is better for the quarter to drop back from three to five yards behind his center, to watch out for "fake kicks" around the end or through the line. If the opposing center is a dangerous man, when going down under punts the defensive center should charge him back to prevent him from going down the field and making costly tackles.