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Does Height Matter for Offensive Linemen?

When you think of the offensive line, you think of giant athletes that tower over the rest of the team in regards to height and weight.

It is a common belief that there is a minimum height requirement to play on the offensive line. This idea stems from the belief that all good offensive linemen are giants, and that if you aren't 6'4" or over, you can't be successful on the football field as an offensive lineman. But, is this true? How important is height to playing on the offensive line? How tall do you need to be to play offensive line?

Every coach wants an offensive line that is tall and dominant, but that's not the question. The question is, is there such a significant difference between an offensive lineman who is 6'2" and an offensive lineman who is is 6'5"? Will the taller lineman be predictably more successful?

I've heard the thought process of dozens, if not hundreds, of parents and linemen going through the college recruiting process: “I'm only 6'2", I'm not tall enough for college,” or “I'm only 6 foot, I won't be on varsity.” These thoughts only create a negative mindset and limit your potential as a player. The reality is, although height helps, it is not the determining factor of the success of an offensive lineman.

When it comes to the height of offensive lineman, it is true that there is an advantage gained by being taller, but it is not as big of a deal as you might think. Of course, if you are 5'10", your odds of playing college or professional football are slim to none. It's like saying: "I want to be an astronaut, but I get space sick", or "I want to be a professional skier, but I live in Arizona". But, if you're over 6'0", there are plenty of examples of guys out there who have been successful at D1 and NFL levels.

It's not impossible for a shorter offensive lineman to compete—it's just a bit harder. So if size isn't the only factor, what else is important?

  • Athleticism

  • Competitiveness and work ethic

  • Technique (Probably the most important)

Notice how each of these attributes are things YOU can control. Train these skills as much as you can in the off-season. Stay an extra 10 minutes in the gym, find a private coach to work with you on blocking fundamentals and technique, and watch film on a regular basis. Your ability to compete, work, and do the little things right will make a bigger difference than a couple of inches in height.

At Iowa our head coach, Kirk Ferentz, had a saying about this topic that always stuck with me. He would say, "We are not an amusement park team. You know the rides when you go to an amusement park, and they have a sign that says you have to be this tall to ride the ride? We aren't that kind of team. We don't recruit based on height."

At the end of the day, if you're passionate about something and want to pursue it, go for it. Nothing will stop you from achieving those goals beside yourself. Furthermore, there is nothing you can do about your God-given height. So rather than focusing on aspects of yourself that you have zero chance of changing, you are better off focusing on the things you can control.