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Hook and lateral

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Title: Hook and lateral  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Lateral pass, American football plays, Sweep (American football), Offensive philosophy (American football), 2006 Boise State Broncos football team
Collection: American Football Plays
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Hook and lateral

The hook and lateral or hook and ladder is a trick play in American or Canadian football. It starts with the hook, which is where a wide receiver runs a predetermined distance, usually 10 yards down the field, and along the sideline, and "hooks in" towards the center of the field to receive a forward pass from the quarterback. Another offensive player (usually another wide receiver) times a run so that he is at full speed, just behind the player with the ball at the time of the catch. As the defenders close in on the stationary ball carrier, he laterals or hands the ball to the teammate running at full speed in the opposite direction of the original receiver.

If unanticipated, this play puts defenders out of position, running in the wrong direction. If the second receiver catches the lateral in stride, he can be long gone before defenders can react. However, the offense runs a high risk of turning the ball over if it is not handled properly because, unlike a forward pass, a dropped lateral pass results in a live ball.


  • Examples 1
  • "Hook and Ladder" 2
    • Speculation on origins of names 2.1
  • External links 3


  • The Play
  • The Miami Dolphins executed a successful "87 Circle Curl Lateral" play at the end of the first half of their AFC playoff game against the San Diego Chargers on January 2, 1982. Wide receiver Duriel Harris caught a 20-yard pass from quarterback Don Strock and then lateraled it to running back Tony Nathan, who ran 25 yards for the score. The play gave the Dolphins huge momentum going into the second half, but the Chargers eventually won in overtime.
  • In Week 16 of the 2001 NFL season, the New York Giants trailed the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 with seven seconds left. From their own 20-yard line, Kerry Collins threw a pass over the middle to Tiki Barber; he ran the ball to the 34 before lateraling it back to Ron Dixon, who sprinted 62 yards up the left sideline before being tackled six yards short of the end zone by safety Damon Moore as time ran out. The play, named "86 Lambuth Special" after Dixon's alma mater, subsequently clinched the NFC East for the Eagles and eliminated the Giants from postseason contention.
  • The Utah Utes ran a successful version of the play in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Steve Savoy caught the ball on a short pass and lateraled to Paris Warren who took it into the end zone.
  • The Boise State Broncos executed the play (called "Circus" in their playbook) against the Oklahoma Sooners on fourth down to force overtime in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Boise State later scored a touchdown in overtime on a wide receiver roll out option pass, and won by scoring the ensuing two-point conversion on the seldom-seen Statue of Liberty play.
  • The Missouri Tigers executed a hook and lateral to set up a field goal in the fourth quarter of their October 23, 2010 regular season victory over the Oklahoma Sooners, who were at the time ranked number one in the BCS standings.
  • The Florida International Golden Panthers successfully ran the play on fourth and 17, with less than a minute remaining, in the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl. This helped set up the game winning field goal as time expired. In an interview after the game, FIU coach Mario Cristobal said the play was called "Boise", referring to Boise State's play in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl (see more about the play above).
  • The 2014 Bahamas Bowl

"Hook and Ladder"

The "hook and lateral" is sometimes referred to as a "hook and ladder." The play is referred to as the "hook and ladder" on the cover of EA Sports NCAA Football 2008, possibly because the term has been incorrectly used commonly by sportscasters, coaches and fans for years.

Speculation on origins of names

Some proponents of the term "hook and lateral" claim that the "hook" refers to the pattern run by the receiver who catches the pass from the quarterback. The "lateral" refers to the pitching of the ball by the receiver to his teammate. This is not synonymous with a "ladder", which is a specific route (also called a "chair") in which a receiver cuts out before turning up the field along the sideline. If the "hook" receiver laterals the ball to a teammate running a ladder route, the play could accurately be described as a "hook and ladder". This would not be true of many hook and lateral plays; in the case of the play run by the Boise State Broncos in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the player who received the lateral from the "hook" receiver was running a slant route across the center of the field rather than a ladder route.

On the January 2, 2007 broadcast of ESPN's Around the Horn, sportswriter Woody Paige claimed, perhaps facetiously, that the name "hook and ladder" originated with NYC Firemen Football Team in Hell's Kitchen, New York. This was in response to the other panelists ridiculing his use of "hook and ladder" rather than "hook and lateral". The next day, Jay Mariotti claimed the phrase "hook and ladder" referred to coal mining in Pennsylvania in the 1930s — his research claims that coal miners need a hook and ladder when trapped in a mine. Another possible explanation is that "hook and ladder" is just a corruption of the phrase "hook and lateral".

A "hook and ladder" is a common name for a firetruck, which used to carry various hooks and ladders. The analogies that could be drawn to this play based on a "hook" route (with or without an actual "lateral") and a "hook and ladder" apparatus are numerous. Long extension ladders include two or more pieces, perhaps the first piece being a "hook" route, and the second piece being a run up the "ladder" to the end-zone. The second part of the play is sometimes accomplished with a hand-off, and not a lateral at all. Notwithstanding, there does not seem to be any definitive proof of what the play was originally called or why.

External links

  • Ten Wild Plays in NFL History at
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