The term “Squib Kick” is used in American Football to refer to a type of kickoff in which the ball bounces along the ground. The ball is kicked short and the slower players are forced to recover it instead of the return specialist further down the field.

It is used as a strategy kick because a ball that is bouncing unpredictably may be harder for the receiving team to pick up. This allows for more time for the kicking team to go downfield and surround the carrier.

History Behind the Squib Kick

The term was first recorded as being used by the San Francisco 49ers during the 1981 National Football League (NFL) season.

Kicker Ray Wersching was suffering from an injured leg at the time and was unable to kick the ball higher. He was instead forced to kick it lightly on a kickoff. Instead of sailing through the air, the ball hit the ground. It bounced oddly and sporadically on the AstroTurf. It was noticeably more difficult for the receiving team to field. It had the characteristics of another kickoff style, the Onside Kick.

This was done during opening day in the game against the 49ers and the Detroit Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome.

This would later be used again at Super Bowl XVI, which was also held on AstroTurf at the Silverdome when the 49ers faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals. Wersching made two squib kicks towards the end of the first half.

What is the Purpose of a Squib Kick in Gameplay?

The purpose of a Squib Kick is to run out the clock. It is typically used at the end of the half or towards the end of the game. The shorter distance traveled by the ball will put it in the hands of to a bigger player, instead of to a top-of-the-line returner.

It will go to someone slower, instead of to one of the opposing team’s return specialists. It prevents a long return. It takes time off the clock and usually brings the half to an end.

Famous Examples of a Squib Kick in Play

One of the more famous examples of a Squib Kick was during “The Play”. This was a controversial last-second kickoff return in a game between the University of California Berkley Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinals held on November 20, 1982.

Stanford had the lead with just four seconds remaining. Cal coach Joe Kapp has anticipated a Squib Kick from Stanford and he placed his onside return team into the game. They were able to recover the ball and lateraled it five times. This led to a touchdown win for the Golden Bears.

Another example is that of Super Bowl XLI when the Indianapolis Colts used a squib kick for subsequent kickoffs. The Colts ended up with a 29-17 win. Also, in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up overwhelming the Oakland Raiders by using a squib kick for all kickoffs.

More recently, the squib kick was demonstrated by Sarah Fuller of Vanderbilt in November 2020. She became the first female player to play in a Power Five Conference game.