Utility player

In sport, a utility player is one who can play several positions competently, a sort of jack of all trades. Sports in which the term is often used include football (soccer), baseball, water polo and softball.

In cricket, the term all rounder is used.


Notable utility players in baseball, capable of playing most baseball positions include César Tovar, Honus Wagner, Derrel Thomas, Rex Hudler, B.J. Surhoff, Mike Brumley, Chone Figgins, Ryan Freel, Denny Hocking, José Macías, Joe McEwing, Mark McLemore, Pablo Ozuna, Desi Relaford, B.J. Upton, Omar Infante, Scott Spiezio, Eric Bruntlett and Luis Salazar. Cookie Rojas, Bert Campaneris and Jose Oquendo both played every position (including pitcher) during their respective careers.

Tony Phillips was the first player to start 10 games at five different positions in the same season.

In softball, a utility player is a player who can play several positions but can also bat well. Coaches often look for such players to bat as clean-up or 5th in the lineup.

American football

In gridiron football, the utility player is often capable of playing multiple positions, and often they may play both offense and defense. In the National Football League, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots uses the utility player frequently.

Examples of notable utility players include:

  • Guido Merkens, wide receiver, quarterback, cornerback, returner and punter; New Orleans Saints and Houston Oilers.
  • George Blanda, kicker and quarterback; Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders
  • Paul Maguire, punter and linebacker; San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills
  • Danny White, quarterback and punter; Dallas Cowboys
  • Pat McInally, punter and wide receiver; Cincinnati Bengals
  • Deion Sanders, cornerback, wide receiver, kick & punt-returner; Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens
  • Kordell Stewart, nicknamed "Slash"; played quarterback, wide receiver and running back; Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • William Perry, defensive tackle and fullback; Chicago Bears
  • Mike Vrabel, former defensive end, converted to linebacker/tight end.
  • Antwaan Randle-El, quarterback, wide receiver; Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Jason Peters, offensive tackle, tight end; Buffalo Bills
  • Eric Crouch, wide receiver, safety and quarterback; multiple teams and leagues.
  • Troy Brown, wide receiver and cornerback, New England Patriots
  • Mitch Frerotte, offensive guard, receiver, Buffalo Bills (holds the record for most touchdowns, 3, by an offensive lineman in a season).

Several other players advocated to be utility players but were denied this by coaching staff, these include Jim McMahon (quarterback/drop kicker, Chicago Bears) and Eric Moulds (wide receiver/cornerback/kick returner, Buffalo Bills). Doug Flutie, as a member of the New England Patriots, famously switched from quarterback to kicker for one extra-point play in 2006, to deliver the first drop kick in the NFL in sixty years. Bills fullback Cookie Gilchrist also did kicking duties until the signing of Pete Gogolak, and lobbied unsuccessfully to play defense as well.

The tackle eligible is a special form of utility player; examples of those who used this play notably include the aforementioned Jason Peters, Warren Sapp, Jumbo Elliott, and Anthony Muñoz. Another example of a type of utility player is the halfback option play, in which a running back performs the passing duties of a quarterback; Walter Payton, LaDanian Tomlinson and most recently Ronnie Brown have used this play multiple times. Note that generally, a player who plays one regular position as well as special teams is usually not considered a utility player, nor are hybrid running back/wide receivers such as Reggie Bush; only those who play two distinct offensive and/or defensive positions are considered such, as are those who play an offensive or defensive position and in addition kick or punt.

Association football (soccer)

In football, like other sports, the utility man is usually a player who can play a myriad of positions. This will be commonly be defence and midfield, sometimes defence and attack, a few outfield players have also made competent substitute goalkeepers.

Notable examples include:

For a more comprehensive list, see: Football (soccer) utility players.


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