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Player Perspectives: Leading from the Front

By Mike Lemons, 05/11/22, 7:00AM CDT


The critical role of lineman in youth football – and what Naperville Saints lineman love about the roles they play.

One of the most dominant and star-studded offenses in the NFL was on track to win a consecutive Super Bowl. They had the pre-eminent quarterback, a core of speedy receivers, solid running game and one of the best tight ends. Yet they lost Super Bowl 54 in 2020, being completely dominated by the opposing teams’ defensive front. That team was the Kansas City Chiefs.

So why did they lose, and so badly? One of the largest reasons for their loss was the Chiefs’ offensive line, which was decimated by the defensive front of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the opposite side of the ball their defense was picked apart by Buccaneers’ offense. The moral of the story is that the best teams cannot be successful without effective linemen.

So, what does a lineman do to ensure success, and why do Naperville Saints lineman love playing their position?

Lineman and “Stripers”

From grade school to professional teams, offenses and defenses cannot be successful without a great line. Here’s how our Naperville Saints are determined.

The Naperville Saints belong to the Bill George Youth Football League (BGYFL) who have long implemented weight restrictions by player age. The restriction is a safety and even-competition measure. Those players above a certain weight in their age group are deemed “stripers” and are only allowed to play on the offensive and defensive line. You will see players with a distinct stripe decal down the middle of their helmet, examples in the pics below. They are the stripers. Note that not all lineman are stripers. We have some our fastest and strongest players on the line who are under the weight limit.

The Naperville Saints belong to the Bill George Youth Football League (BGYFL) who has implemented weight restrictions, by age. The weight restriction is a safety and even-competition measure. Those players above a certain weight in their age group are deemed "stripers" and are only allowed to play on the offensive and defensive line. The "striper" weights limits can be found on the  BGYFL website listed HERE. Once a player is listed as a striper with the league, they are a striper for the season. 

Illustrative weight table summary below. Ex: If an 8 year old is 79 pounds, they would be a "striper."

Age Group Age* Week 1 Weight
8U Not 9 78+
9U Not 10 88+
10U Not 11 98+
11U Not 12 108+
JV Not 13 123+
Varsity Not 15 158+

*as of August 1st



One of the main reasons for the striper rule is player safety. For example, a kid weighing over 100 pounds running the ball against a 40-pound kid has a higher potential for injury and might create an unfair advantage. Some youth football leagues do not believe in a weight-based program which is not ours to say is right or wrong, but we feel ours is the right approach for the sake of youth football. We want kids enjoying the game, coming back to play next year and continuing on.

If you are new to football or want to know more about being a lineman, below is a primer.

The Offensive Line

There are five offensive linemen (OL) in most offensive formations: one center, two guards, and two tackles. Their primary function is to block for the player with the ball.

Offensive linemen are the biggest, strongest guys on the field, and their work can win or lose a game.

  • The primary job of the offensive line is to block opposing players. They do not typically touch the ball as part of the game plan, and there are even rules preventing them from doing so at certain times.
  • They need to be particularly good blockers in both running and passing situations.
  • They must have the strength to overpower opponents, the speed to get out in front of running backs, and the quickness to block smaller, faster defensive players.

The Defensive Line

Again, as with offense, this is where the play starts. The defensive linemen (DL) are the first stage of the defense, and the first men the offense must account for in their blocking schemes. 

  • Defensive linemen are strong, rivaled on the field only by the offensive linemen. However, some physical characteristics are more desirable for specific positions.
  • Defensive tackles are often the biggest players on defense.
  • Defensive ends tend to be slightly smaller, quicker players and built for pass rushing.

Lineman on both sides have unique responsibilities on every play, it’s not always just bull-rush ahead. Quick, athletic feet are required to push defenders down the line, to open gaps, to “pull” and run behind the line to meet a defender. Defensive lineman must be agile and strong, getting past the offensive lineman to close gaps and pressure the quarterback.

These guys are just AWESOME!

Huge Upsides of Playing Lineman

Lineman do battle in the trenches on every single play. Some players may not have contact with their opponent in each play, but lineman do as they compete man-to-man, moving another player off the ball. They must be strong, fast off the ball and have an intelligent mind for the game as they execute plays. Lineman don’t just face off and drive their man off the ball like traps, pulls and downfield techniques.

The gaps a running back burst through happen because an offensive lineman created it. The quarterback has time to throw downfield because of the lineman. Quarterbacks get sacked because of lineman. We could go on and on.

Several of our 2022 season Naperville Saints lineman shared what playing their critical role means to them, below. These are some of the best lineman in their respective age groups and exemplify what it means to lead their team from the front lines:

Here’s to our stripers – we cannot be successful without you!


Read also: The 6 most important life lessons you learn by playing offensive line