What Does Second String Mean In Football?

Second string in football means that you are the backup to the number one player at the position. This term is used for every level of player on the roster. Meaning first string are the starters, second strings are the backups, third strings are the third ranked player at the position and so on.

So if you are wondering what third string means or what fourth string means it simply means you are the third or fourth ranked player on your team at your position.

Where Does The Term Second String Come From?

The term second string is believed to come from medieval times in which archers would carry a second string with them into battle. If their first string on the bow were to snap in battle then the archers would be able to use their second string as a backup.

In these times the term was only used literally. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that this term became an idiom. And was used to describe people as second stringers instead of just using the term literally.

Does Being A Second Stringer Mean You Will Not Play?

No, in fact some second stringers are going to end up playing more than first stringers players depending on their position.

First off, some positions have multiple players on the field at one time. For example, in most situations, you will have two or three receivers on the field. But in some situations, you will have four.

The fourth receiver which is a starter when four receivers are on the field is not considered a first-string player. This player may be considered a second-string and even a third-string. Depending on how many receivers the team typically players with.

Special Teams

Special teams is a part of the game where second and third stringers get a ton of playing time. If you are a second string player looking to get more playing time then special teams is great opportunity.

Whether it is punts, field goals, or kickoffs special teams can offer you a chance to get out on the field more often.

This is especially true is you practice on honing your special teams skills. In fact many NFL teams have players brought on the team mainly for their special teams skills. These players are typically the third stringers at their position but their playing time comes from special teams instead.


At the end of the day every football team has second stringers and third stringers for a reason. Injuries are very common in football and the odds that a player in front of you will get injured at some point in the season is fairly high.

It is for this reason the second string quarterbacks are fully prepared to play against the upcoming opponent each week. This is another reason why you shouldn’t fret too much if you are named a second stringer. Remember almost every football player was a second stringer at some point in their career.

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