Holder (American football)

Holder (American football)

In American football the holder is the player who receives the snap from the long snapper during field goal attempts made by the placekicker. The holder is set on one knee approximately 7 yards behind the line-of-scrimmage. While the holder is set, he places the hand which is closest to the place kicker on the ground (In high school games, the holder is responsible for a kicking block, which lifts the ball off of the turf), and holds the other hand out to receive the snap. After receiving the snap, the holder will place the football on the turf, or block, with the laces facing the uprights, and balance the ball with one or two finger(s).

The holder, like the placekicker and the long snapper, is protected from intentional contact from the opposing team. The penalty for roughing the holder is 15 yards and an automatic first down.

Mitch Berger as a holder

Depth Chart position

Compared to other American football positions, the holder is one of the most trivial positions, requiring precision in the receipt of a snap and placement of a ball in short time, but requiring far less physical talent than a skill position and much less bulk or strength than a lineman. Because of this, it is exceptionally rare for a team to preserve a roster spot solely for a placekick holder; most teams will instead use a player who plays another position to double as the holder. One notable exception was Patricia Palinkas, the first female professional football player; Palinkas played holder (and no other position) during her short time as a pro player.[1]

The holder's actual position, on the team's official depth chart, is generally either the punter or the backup quarterback. Some high school football teams will place a wide receiver or running back at the holder position because of their good hands (this is not unheard of at other levels; Steve Tasker, a wide receiver and punt gunner, also played holder at various times in his NFL career).

Backup quarterback

The rationale for having a backup quarterback holding is that the quarterback is accustomed to receiving snaps from center and long snaps from the shotgun formation. He also provides a threat for a fake field goal since the quarterback can throw a pass on such plays. Additionally, in the event of a bad snap and an aborted kick attempt, the holder might have to become the quarterback for the play, so having an actual quarterback helps in that regard. Years ago in the NFL, backup quarterbacks generally held for field goal kicks.

Having the backup quarterback play as the holder has faded out in the NFL, mainly due to a rule in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement that prohibited a team's third-string quarterback from playing except in emergencies (this was repealed in the 2011 CBA). However, such usage has remained rather common in collegiate football. Many times a quarterback who was a redshirt freshman will serve as the holder his sophomore year. It is also common in other professional leagues such as the Arena Football League (where there is no punting and are thus no punters) or the Canadian Football League, where roster size restrictions generally result in one person serving as both placekicker and punter.


In today's NFL, most teams use their punter as holder, the logic being that punters and placekickers have more free-time during practice, and punters are used to handling snaps from the long snapper.


There are a few NFL teams that still use a quarterback as their holders.

New Orleans Saints - The Saints tend to run more fake field goals than any other team, and due to that they generally keep a backup in as their holder (this keeps opposing defenses in more of a zone coverage, and also helps the prevent blocked field goals). With previous holder Chase Daniel signing with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013 free agency period, coach Sean Payton will have to find a new holder for Garrett Hartley.

Dallas Cowboys - When Tony Romo was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, he was their backup quarterback, and as the backup quarterback, part of his job was to be the team's holder, and he is the only current starting quarterback to be the team's official holder. (Romo was replaced by the punter in 2010, but due to many mishandled snaps, which resulted in missed field goals, Romo returned as the team's official holder). The Cowboys hired a more experienced holder, Brian Moorman, in 2012; Moorman left the team at the end of the season. Throughout the 1990s, starting tight end Jay Novacek was the usual holder on kicks.

Buffalo Bills - The Bills assigned backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen as the holder for placekicker Rian Lindell in 2012. This was due to a midseason change at the punter position, in which rookie Shawn Powell replaced Moorman on the roster. Moorman returned the next season.

Denver Broncos - The Broncos used to use former starting quarterback Jake Plummer as the holder and continued to do so after he was benched in favor of Jay Cutler. After Plummer retired the Broncos began to use their punter as the holder.

Washington Redskins - Starting quarterback Joe Theismann held for Mark Moseley from the late 1970s until he suffered his career-ending broken leg during a 1985 Monday Night Football game vs. the New York Giants.

Holder's other responsibilities

During a "fake field goal" attempt the holder may pick the ball up and either throw a forward pass or run with the ball (i.e., act as the quarterback would on a standard play). In addition, if the snap is so bad that the kick obviously won't succeed, the holder may attempt to run or pass. However, this rarely succeeds; the holder is usually tackled promptly.

There can also be a holder during kickoffs and free kicks, but this is reserved for when the ball tee cannot keep the ball up by itself, usually due to wind. In such a case, the holder can be of any position.


  1. ^ Associated Press (1970-09-04). "First woman to earn place on pro grid team is also suspended." Retrieved 2010-12-25.