It’s a different world out there. No longer are teams lining up and settling for three yards and a cloud of dust – well unless you play in the Big 10. Today’s college football landscape is filled with a myriad of various spread offenses. You have Texas A&M, who spread the field to set up running lanes for their speedy quarterback. Schools like West Virginia spread the field with five wide receivers in order to throw the ball all over the field, then you have the likes Oregon and Ohio State, who run variations of the spread-option offense.
What is the one thing that most of these spread attacks have in common? They have little to no need for a fullback. You even see the position being phased out of the professional ranks, with NFL teams looking for athletic tight ends that can stretch the field rather than punishing full backs looking to pave the way for the ball carrier.
With the fullback position on the way out of football, it’s refreshing to see a team line up and play smash mouth football. It is rare to final a player who embraces the role of a fullback.
The Florida Gators are one team that is transitioning back to a throwback style of football, choosing to run the ball right at you and beat their opponents into submission. With a prolific and successful ground game, most of the hype and adoration goes to the running back, after all, he’s the one scoring all the touchdowns.
It takes a certain type of person to be able to take on the thankless role of playing fullback and paving the way for someone else to get the headline but it’s a role that junior fullback Hunter Joyer has embraced since his first day on campus.
“I view myself as a throwback fullback,” Joyer said. “I just try not to be selfish and worry about the team more than myself. As long as I’m doing good for the team, we’re going to be all right and I’m going to be all right, so there’s no reason to be selfish and worry about getting the ball.”
Wait a second. In a world where athletes worry about making their name as big as possible in order to get off the field endorsement deals, is there really a player who would rather set his teammate up for glory rather than score a touchdown on their own?
“They’re both nice, but you get a little more of a kick when you set a block [for a touchdown],” Joyer said when asked if he would rater block or score a touchdown on his own. “I feel like anybody can run it in sometimes because it’s wide open, so it’s kind of more the offensive line or the blockers that should get a little more of the credit sometimes.”
That’s the kind of mentality that a fullback needs to have. Fullbacks don’t garner the headlines that the quarterback, receivers and running backs do but their role – especially Joyer’s role at Florida – is vital to the success of the offense. It takes a player who is strong mentally to be able to handle the reality of his role and a player who is physically strong enough to handle the constant pounding of taking on linebackers and defensive linemen. How strong is Joyer? Well, at just 5’10”, he is one of the strongest players on the team.
“Um, I don’t know. I think I would be up there but I don’t know who’s exactly at the top,” Joyer said when asked where he stacks up with the rest of the team on the bench press.
When asked how much he can bench press, Joyer said that he hasn’t maxed out in a couple of weeks but casually stated that he could bench press about 445-pounds. The way Joyer nonchalantly stated the weight made it seem as if he thought that was a normal weight for humans his size to be lifting.
That size and strength allows Joyer to take on much bigger players in the running game and blow open holes for Florida’s tailbacks. When asked if there were any plays that stood out to him from last season, he pointed out two; one against Tennessee and another against Texas A&M.
The play he was speaking about in College Station came on a run where Joyer’s blocking – along with a great block from Solomon Patton – paved the way for Gillislee to score the go ahead and eventual game-winning score. The play is a great example of just how valuable Joyer is to the running game and what he means to Florida.
Here is what that play looked like.
Joyer is lined up outside of the tackle and just off of the inside hip of the tight end (Tevin Westbrook).
As the play continues, the offensive line blocks down (to the right in the blue box) and Joyer (red arrow) leads the way, taking on a linebacker in front of Mike Gillislee.
Joyer not only takes care of his man (red box) but he shoves him into two more defenders who were pursuing the play. Frankie Hammond (blue box) does a great job of holding his man around the five yard line and Gillislee is able to take the run to the outside, tip toe the sideline and score.
This is an excellent display of blocking from both Joyer and Hammond, and a great example of how doing the little things the right way makes a team successful.
Joyer isn’t content on resting on his laurels and knows that he has a lot of work to do to continue making himself the best football player that he can be.
“I know I’m not perfect or the best at anything,” Joyer said. “So I know there’s always room for improvement.”