Learn the Most Effective Way to Play Wide Receiver

The football position is one of the most important

Receiver Catching pass
Fuse/Getty Images

Wide receiver is one of the most exciting positions on the football field. Teams are passing more at the youth, high school, college, and pro levels, and wide receivers are playing an important part. Wide receivers—also called wideouts or receivers—generally do what the position name implies: They are split "wide" and line up near the sidelines, farthest away from their teammates. There are generally two wide receivers in a standard offensive formation, one on each side, but they can both line up on the same side.

Wide Receivers' Role

Wide receivers are pass-catching specialists. They are the position players you might see at a typical high school, college, or NFL game racing up the field along the sideline, trailed by a defender, as the quarterback heaves a pass 50 yards down the field. If the wide receiver catches even one such ball, he can turn the tide of the game. If he misses it, he's often the goat.

Though wide receivers' primary responsibility is catching the football and gaining yardage, they are also called on to block on certain run plays. Or, a wide receiver might be required to "runoff," where he runs hard as if running a deep route. This will usually lure the corner and one of the safeties—two key defensive players—out of range of an underneath route, so the quarterback can make a quick, short throw to another player.


Wide receivers are a diverse group, with size and strength varying through the ranks. However, height is important, as it gains a receiver an advantage over a shorter cornerback. Speed and quickness are important for getting away from defenders and being open for passes.

To be a great receiver, though, it's not enough to be tall and fast. The fundamentals of catching the football have to come naturally to you. You have to know the mechanics of a good route and how to get open, even when you're being shadowed by speedy defenders. You also have to study defenses. The best receivers know how to adjust their assigned routes depending on the coverage the defense gives them.

Role Model

It can be helpful for aspiring athletes to have role models, great players who are admired by competitors, teammates, and fans. Jerry Rice is generally considered the best wide receiver to ever play the game. He had all of the necessary physical attributes to excel at the position as well as the mental toughness to literally soar above his fellow players.

Rice is 6 feet 2 and weighed 200 pounds during his 20-year professional career (1985 to 2005). He was on three Super Bowl-winning squads and was even named Super Bowl MVP in 1989. But he did not have blazing, world-class speed. His time in the 40-yard dash was 4.6 seconds, which is considered "only" average for an NFL wide receiver.

Rice had other attributes that made up for his relative lack of speed. He ran great routes, had superb hands, and knew how to get open. San Fransisco's star quarterback Joe Montana often completed spectacular passes to Rice, who was also one of the hardest workers on the practice field. Young aspiring wide receivers would do well to study Rice.