As far as sports go, football has a wide range of potential action that can happen on the field. On one side of the spectrum, there are the coaches who run almost every play right up the middle, with an occasional pass thrown in for good measure.
Then, there are the coaches on the other end, who embrace trickery and inventive plays to get a win. It’s both those coaches and the players who pull of feats of deception for the glory of their team that we honor today.
Here are five of the greatest football trick plays we’ve ever seen.
Let’s start at the amateur athletic level: middle school. Here we have a straightforward quarterback draw, which involves the quarterback running the ball himself.
The trickery comes in how he takes the snap: instead of conventionally getting it from behind the center’s legs, the center gives it to him over his shoulder.
The defense, fooled by the abnormal way of snapping the ball, doesn’t react, thinking that the play is dead. It isn’t, and the QB takes it all the way into the endzone.
At the pro, college or even high school level, this kind of strategy probably wouldn’t work because the players are too savvy. In middle school, however, it’s perfect.
Hidden Ball Trick
Here’s a classic example from the big-time college level and, again, something that you do not see very often. Before the snap, the wide-out motions in and stands near the two running backs in the backfield.
After snapping the ball, the quarterback then bunches up with the three other players, backs facing the defense, making it impossible to decipher who has the ball.
As soon as they all bust out, the ball carrier is able to scamper 15 yards before they figure out who he is. One mark of this trick play being good is it’s hard to figure out who has the ball even while just watching the video.
The flea flicker is one of the most classic trick plays in football. The quarterback hands the ball to a running back and the running back pitches the ball back to the quarterback, who then usually hurls it to a wide open receiver downfield.
With this particular flea flicker, though, another wrinkle is introduced: the quarterback pitches it to a running back who then pitches it to a receiver who then pitches it back to the quarterback.
This kind of play requires an immense amount of coordination on the part of the three players, who are all moving completely in sync with each other to the end of being in exactly the right places when they’re ready to pitch the ball.
The QB’s pass also happens to be perfect, and the team ends up with a long, hard-fought touchdown.
Dead Man Play
The play featured here is one that involves trickery at its most basic level: creating the illusion that the play hasn’t even started yet.
To do that, the players on this high school team are all standing perfectly upright when the quarterback receives the snap and then leisurely drops back and hurls a deep pass to his receiver, who beats his cornerback for a touchdown.
It looks like they’re playing catch in the backyard, except with 20 other guys on the field standing around completely confused about what’s going on. You can probably understand why they call it the “Dead Man” play.
Hook and Lateral
You can argue all you want for one type of trick play versus another, but one of the most exciting to witness will always be the hook and lateral. With a hook and lateral, a passing play proceeds normally, with the quarterback hitting a receiver usually about ten yards from the line of scrimmage.
But all the while, another receiver is curling around from the other side of the field, and, if the play is timed right (a proper hook and laterl; needs to be timed perfectly, which is why they so rarely work) the receiver curling around should be right behind the receiver catching the ball at about the time of the catch.
That way, the receiver, who would normally be tackled where he stands, can lateral the ball to the other receiver, hitting him in stride and allowing another 10, 20 or more yards to be gained. Pulled off correctly, the hook and lateral is one of the most fluid, eye-catching plays in sports.