This section is from the book "A Scientific And Practical Treatise On American Football For Schools And Colleges", by A. Alonzo Stagg, Henry L. Williams. Don't miss: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
In carrying the ball under the arm it should be held well forward, because it can be held more tightly in this position. The reason why the ball is often pulled out from under the arm is that it is held so far back that the strong muscles of the chest are of little assistance. When held in this position the ball is often forced out from under the arm when the runner is thrown to the ground. By testing these two positions it will be easily seen which is the safer way. If a runner is inclined to lose the ball he should practice squeezing it in the most approved manner until he has trained himself to hold it fast under all circumstances.
We have already spoken of the runner getting under headway quickly. It is also necessary that he should run with all his speed; whether he plunges into the center part of the line or follows the interference out to the wings (unless he is obliged to slow down in order to receive the ball, to let a runner in ahead of him, or to get by an opponent). No runner is so invincible in all his play as he who rushes with all his strength; who shows by his every movement the determination and power with which he is charged; who inspires in his opponents a hesitancy and dread of tackling him; who never gives up when tackled but keeps struggling on, twisting, squirming, and wriggling himself out of the grasp of one after another until he can no longer advance. Such a man is worth a dozen who hesitate.
The dashing runner is the one who usually makes the advances. If he goes through an opening he goes through on a jump. Such a man, when checked, will keep his feet and legs going like a treadmill and will bore his way through in spite of resistance. This sort of pushing accomplishes wonders. For effective application of power it is worth vastly more than the same amount of force applied slowly, for the attack is sudden and continuous. Its effectiveness, however, is altogether dependent on the head being well bent over, so that the whole weight and impetus of the body is forward, for the legs are then in a position to exert the greatest power.
Another reason for running into the line well bent over, is that it is much more difficult to tackle a runner when in that attitude. It is impossible to get under a short man in order to make a low tackle when he is com- . ing straight toward one, and the result is that the tackier receives the runner's head in his stomach, or if he be good in the use of his arm, he will very likely have a hand thrust into his face or against his chest. At such times, the runner is very often able to slip past.
Again, running with the head down enables the runner always to fall forward when tackled. This usually means a further gain of two or three yards.
In running low care should always be taken not to lose the balance. After considerable practice the balance can be very well kept when running much bent over and still great speed be maintained. As soon as the line is cleared and there are no opponents very near, the runner should assume a more upright position so that he can run at his utmost speed, lowering his head whenever he thinks best.
In making the end plays, the runner need not put his head down except, perhaps, when it is necessary to duck under a tackier. He must now put on speed up to the full limit of the interferers, following them very closely, now using this one and now that, according as the danger shifts. He must constantly be on the alert for changing his position to take advantage of every little help, or to prevent being pocketed, at the same time being ready to break away from his interferers if he sees he can gain more by so doing. In general, the runner should keep behind his helpers until the last, but now and then an opportunity comes which he ought to accept.
The light-footed, agile man who can keep his balance well is physically best capacitated for running behind interferers. To do it well the runner should be able to change his stride to meet the emergencies which arise in passing from one interferer to another, or in following very close when a long stride would cause him to stumble over his interferers.
Another requirement which the backs, or at least one of them, presumably the full-back, should have, is the ability to kick. It would be well if all three possessed this ability, for there are times, now and then, when consternation could be brought to the opponents by the half-back returning a kick. But this could happen only occasionally, and it is much more important that the half-backs be especially strong in running with the ball, for that will be their main work. The full-back however, should be a skillful kicker both in punting and drop-kicking.
It requires long practice to punt well. The oval shape of the ball precludes simply tossing or dropping it from the hands and then kicking it, to get the best results.
The mechanical construction and adjustment of the muscles of the leg and body in their relation to kicking require careful study. Long practice is necessary to be able to regulate the power, and at the same time determine the angle and direction which the ball shall take. All the practice which the full-back can get to acquire skill in punting will be well repaid, for it will make him of inestimable value to his eleven.
Where the full-back does not know how to punt, the following directions will be found helpful: Hold the ball between the hands, the ends pointing to and from the body, lacings up. Extend the arms horizontally in front and bend forward with the body until the ball is held just below the level of the waist. Take a short step forward with the foot not used in kicking, and at the same time drop the ball from the hands, and bring the kicking leg quickly forward to meet the falling ball about knee high. Do not try to kick hard at first. Attend simply to dropping (not tossing) the ball without changing the relative position of the axis. This must be closely regarded or there will never be any certainty as to where the ball will go. The first point noticed by a novice will be that the ball reaches the ground before his foot meets it. This shows that the foot was not started forward soon enough. One way to obviate that difficulty is to drop the ball from a higher point; but the best point has already been selected and the tardy member must be trained to be on time. It will also be noticed that sometimes the ball will meet the leg above the ankle. The aim should be to have the ball fit into the concave of the extended foot, and it will probably be necessary to give the ball a slight toss forward in order to make the kick powerfully. Care should be taken when doing this that the ball is not turned, or tossed so far that power is lost. In practicing in this way it will at first be noticed that the whole force of the blow will be given by using the leg from the knee down. This, one can readily see, would weaken the blow because the leverage is short and the muscles which extend the lower leg not especially powerful, and at the same time it is very trying to the knee joint. The most powerful kick would be one which had the leverage of the full length of the leg, thus bringing into play the strong abdominal muscles to add speed and power. In making this kick, the leg should be extended at full length (with toes pointed) and should swing on the hips as an axis. After the forward kick has been learned so that it can be well executed, the side kick may be attempted. In this case the ball is dropped a little to the outside. The great advantage in the side kick is, that if not too much on one side, a very considerable increase in power can be gained, because a longer swing can be given to the leg, and because the swing is further as-sisted by some additional muscles which give increased power. Another advantage is that the full-back can take a step to the side and kick around an opponent.