Football Poems

Celebrate the sport with the best pigskin poetry.
Photograph of army and navy football teams mid tackle.

It’s football season. Time to toss the ball around in the backyard, tailgate, and head down to the big game. Whether you're a high school, college, or an NFL fan, these poems will help you get ready for the season.

First Down: School Days

Poems about street games, high school hijinks, and poets among players.

  • Mark Halliday

    In the huddle you said “Go long—get open”
    and at the snap I took off along the right sideline
    and then cut across left in a long arc

  • Dennis Cooper

    friends and I would watch them
    from my porch, books of poems
    lost in our laps

    • Appeared in Poetry Magazine Olives
    Donald Hall

    intoning inscrutable stanzas
    as halfbacks and tackles
    made out, Friday nights after football

  • D. Nurkse

    The ball flew up toward day
    and landed in night.

Second Down: Small Town, Big Game

The whole town heads down to the stadium to sit beneath the Friday night lights.

  • David Baker

    Down the block we bend with the season:
    shoes to polish for a big game,
    storm windows to batten or patch.

  • Denis Johnson

                                            i thought
    that i would make a fine football-playing   
    poet, but now i know

  • James Wright

    Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
    At the beginning of October,
    And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

  • Paul Carroll

                           Even practice could be fun—
                       The way, say, even sepia photgraphs of old-time
                           All Americans could be pirates' gold

Third Down: Coaches and Players
  • Louis Jenkins

                                                    One has certain responsibilities,
    one has to make choices. This isn’t right and I'm not going
    to throw it.

  • Jacqueline Woodson

    No one was faster
    than my father on the football field.

  • Howard Nemerov

    They have Immortals in a Hall of Fame,
    They have the stories of the tribe, the plays
    And instant replays many times replayed.

  • Timothy Murphy

    our high school quarterback become a clerk—

    in the high sense.

  • David Musgrave

    Half their lives are spent in clouds
             of condensation or the cold heat 

  • Michael Ryan

    Any minute—no guessing what might trigger it—
    he could be butting your face mask and barking up your

  • James Wright

    When I woke, I found myself crying out
    Latin conjugations, and the new snow falling
    At the edge of a green field.


Poetry and football come together in three surprising ways.