What is a pick in football?

The term pick in football is another way of saying interception. This is especially common when a player returns an interception for a touchdown as this is often called a pick six.

An interception is called a pick in football because it involves a player picking off a pass. Just as you would pick a fruit from a tree a defender can pick off a pass meant for a wide receiver.

This term is completely interchangeable with the term interception. For those that don’ know an interception occurs when a defender catches a pass thrown by the quarterback.

When an interception is returned for a touchdown you will almost always hear the announcers refer to it as pick six.

The reason it is called a pick-six is that it features an interception and earns the team six points.

When a touchdown is scored the offense will earn six points before the extra point is attempted. This means a play in which an interception is returned for a touchdown will feature a pick and will earn you six points.

Other uses of the term pick in football

The term pick in football generally means interception but it can have another definition as well.

A pick play in football is an offensive play which involves a wide receiver intentionally getting into the way of an opposing team’s defender.

This uses the term as it used in basketball which means to put your body in front of a defender who is guarding your teammate.

What this does is make it more difficult for the defender to stay in close proximity to your teammate.

In football pick plays are generally done by wide receivers against defensive backs. Two receivers will run routes very close to one another. As the routes intersect one offensive player will look to block the path of a defender.

This leads to separation by the receiver as the defensive player covering him had to go around the other receiver.

These plays are often ruled illegal as the offensive players are not allowed to intentionally make contact with defenders.

Who gets picks?

Now that you know what a pick is in football you may be wondering which players on the field are going to be generating these plays.


Cornerbacks are one position which is often the top of the list when it comes to picks. In football, some cornerbacks are going to line up wide from the formation near the sideline.

These players are primarily responsible for making sure the wide receivers do not catch passes from the quarterback.

On passing plays, these cornerbacks will be assigned a specific player or a specific area of the field to cover.

If the ball comes their way they want to do their best to break up the pass so the receiver does not catch it.

But every once in a while a ball will be thrown that gives the cornerback a great chance to intercept it.

This close proximity to a large number of throws throughout a game gives cornerbacks plenty of chances to earn a pick.

And since the players are far from the formation they are occasionally able to turn those picks into pick-sixes with quick runs up the sideline.


Safeties are the position next most likely to earn interceptions in football. The safety as you may have guessed by their name is the last line of defense for a football team.

These players line up the furthest back from the offense and make sure the opposing team is not able to complete any deep passes down the field.

Oftentimes when covering these deep passes the quarterback will throw an inaccurate pass. With the safeties waiting deep in the defensive backfield they will have a great shot at getting to the ball before the wide receivers do.

Additionally, cornerbacks in man coverage will follow their wide receivers when they run deep down the field. This means many of these deep throws will be thrown into double coverage.

This allows the defenders to be a little riskier when attempting to get a pick as they have another defender there to make a tackle if they miss.

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