The prevailing idea in time past has been that the largest and heaviest man who could be procured should be used for the center-rusher, or snapback of the eleven. So universal has this idea become that it has long been a common joke to say of an especially large and stout person: "He would make a good center-rusher." Every new team formed, as a rule, selects the center according to this axiomatic fallacy. It is easy to see how this principle of selection became established under the old pushing style of game, and it still should hold sway, provided it brings with the selection certain qualities of mind, and certain physical capacities, which will enable the center to be one of the most active and effective agents on the field.

The center occupies a unique position on the eleven in that he starts the play after each down, and is the only member of the team who cannot run with the ball from a scrimmage, because it is impossible to make him a third man advantageously. His work, therefore, is limited in that particular. By reason, also, of his having to protect the quarter-back after he snaps the ball, and because he is invariably entangled with the opponents, it is impossible for him to become a valuable running interferer. What work in interference he is able to do is limited to blocking the opponents from breaking through the line, or running behind their own line to head off the runner with the ball at one side. Possibly, when very clever and swift, he may be able to cut across the field to interfere with a half-back or the full-back. The center should make a practice of doing this latter work on every play around the end, and on every play between the tackle and end. Perhaps he may not be able to get ahead of the runner, but he will be of valuable assistance by checking some of the opponents from running behind their line and tackling him. Now and then, also, he will be able to get ahead of the runner and go down the field with him.

From these statements it might appear that it did not matter especially whether the center rusher was a slow runner or not, and that emphasis should be laid on his possessing size and weight, which are understood as necessary to the proper filling of that position. The truth is, that while a slow runner, if he has cleverness for that position and is strong and weighty, will be able to do fairly well as a center, he cannot begin to be as serviceable to his team as if he were also a fast runner. Granting that a fast runner will not be able to do much interfering, or running with the ball, he will still be able to use his speed most helpfully in breaking through the line to tackle; in crossing over to one side to head off a runner; or in going down the field on a kick. Furthermore, his speed will be most helpful in playing a quick game, because he is thus able to follow the ball so closely that there will be no delay in putting it in play. This is a most important point in the center's play. He must be on hand to receive the ball the instant it is down.

It is impossible to play a quick game where the center lags, or to prevent one on the part of the opponents. When there are not many large men who are fast runners it is better, perhaps, to place the speedy man in the position of guard and take a slower man for center.

The ideal center will be one who is swift of foot in addition to his other powers. He should be a large man, not a ponderous man, unless he is quick and strong. He should be especially strong in his legs and back, for he must stand steadily on his feet against the continuous pushing and wrestling which he receives, directly from the opponents, and incidentally from the guards on either side of him. If he is easily moved, or toppled over, he will be likely now and then to snap the ball poorly, thus making the quarter-back uneasy and flurried in handling it. Steadiness is a most necessary part of the center's work and it cannot well be overlooked in the selection of a man to fill that position. Further, as in every position on the eleven endurance is a prime requisite, so is it in this. More of it is needed, however, than in most others, because the work is much harder. No short-winded, fat man can long stand the hard work of that position, if he does his duty. Not only is great physical labor required of the center, but he must also be constantly subjected to knocks and bruises from the plunging and tearing of the rushers and half-backs as they try to break through the line.

No man, therefore, can play in this position who is not physically courageous, and who is not able to rise to his work after each assault with new grit and determination. He should be a man who is cool and collected at all times; combative, but never losing control of his temper; one who endures worrying without being rattled by it; one who never gives up and is bound to conquer. Nowhere in the line is there need for such steadiness as in the center. From him every play starts, in a scrimmage, and a little unsteadiness on his part will be likely to make havoc with the quarter-back's work, and hence with the offensive play of the whole team. Nothing can be more fatal to quick and steady play, for it is sure to produce hesitancy in action in some of the players, with hurried action in others.

In assuming his position for a scrimmage, the center may follow either of two methods of standing, when snapping the ball: one, where one foot is placed back for a brace, the ball being snapped between the legs and a little to one side; the other, where both feet are widely spread to interfere with opponents, as they attempt to break through, and to avoid getting into the way of the ball which can be snapped straight back. Where the first position is followed, the center should be able to work equally well with either foot forward, in order to secure certain advantages in handling his opponent. The center-rusher should make a study of the best way of snapping the ball back, and then hold it the same way every time. He should confer with the quarter-back on this point, as the latter is to handle the ball, and it may be easier to take it when snapped in a particular way.