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What Does 'Pick 6' Actually Mean in American Football?

What Does 'Pick 6' Mean in American Football?
American Football is one of the most watched sports in the country, while also being one that has steadily evolved over the years. But with that evolution comes a slew of terms that you have to keep track of, if you want to smoothly follow what's going in the game. A term that is fast becoming popular, we explain the football meaning of 'Pick 6'.
Rashmi Sunder
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
One of ESPN's columnists, Bill Simmons, came up with an interesting substitute for the term 'Pick 6'. He suggested the term "TAINT" which could be abbreviated as "Touchdown After INTerception". The term didn't manage to gain much popularity, and 'Pick 6' took over.
If you were to say the word "football" anywhere in America, you could hear a million hearts all beating in an excited unison. It is a game that is so loved, be it college football or the NFL, that it is now rated as the most viewed sport in the country. American Football had a rather humble birth when it was first derived from the game of Rugby. But with time, it has changed, excluded certain rugby guidelines, added some of its own, and has now emerged as a game in its own right.

As the game grew into a mega sport, tons of plays, tactics, skills, and techniques were incorporated. This called for the need to properly name them in order for the players to have a quick reference phrase that they can turn to during a play, as well as inform the audience as to what is going on in the game. But because of the massive variations, it is often hard to keep a track of all the terms that are used and to recall what they mean. And yes, hardcore fans will argue that it is not all that complicated, but for the layman, it is quite task! So we thought we'd make life easy for those out there who don't know what the term 'Pick 6' means by providing the definition, explanation, and statistics related to the term.
Football player
The term 'Pick 6' in American football refers to an interception made by the defense that is later returned for a touchdown. The term "pick" is short for "picked off", or in other words, it refers to the interception, whereas the '6' refers to the points you earn while scoring a touchdown. So when you put two and two together, Pick 6 = interception returned for touchdown.
So, how does this work?

Basically, whichever team is in possession of the ball is the offense. No drum rolls there! The quarterback attempts a forward pass, and a member from the defensive team ends up intercepting it. When this happens, the possession instantly changes, and the defense now becomes the offense. The defender who made the interception now attempts to make a quick offensive move by moving the ball to the opponent's end zone. In the event that he scores a touchdown, it will be called a Pick 6. Remember that only the touchdowns that are scored from an interception can be called a Pick 6. Also, it can only be made on a forward pass. In the event that a lateral pass was intercepted, it is counted as a fumble.

Interceptions are usually made by linebackers or the secondary, who usually guard the tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers―players that the quarterback will usually pass to. In the event that it is a shovel pass, tipped ball, screen pass, or near sack, then the defensive lineman may have the opportunity to intercept.

Now that you know what pick 6 is all about, let us look as some killer statistics from NFL players with interceptions and the pick 6!
Back in the days, players were allowed to used an adhesive called "Stickum" that players could use on their shoulders, forearms, and chest, to help them hold on to the ball much better. Using this product, Lester Hayes of the Oakland Riders became one of the leading NFL players in interceptions between the end of the 70s and the start of the 80s. Eventually, the use of the substance was banned in professional football.
In the NFL, Paul Krause (1964-1979, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings) holds the record for the most interceptions with 81. He is also tied at the 3rd place for an NFL rookie with the most interceptions, with 12.
Rod Woodson (1977-2003, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders) holds the record for the most 'Pick 6s' by an NFL player with 12, and for the highest number of defensive touchdowns with 13. He is also the player with the third highest number of interceptions with 71.
Darren Sharper (1997-2010, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints) has 11 Pick 6s, 63 interceptions, and the NFL record for interception return yardage of 376 yards in a single season, in 2009. He is also tied with Roy Woodson with 13 defensive touchdowns.
Charles Woodson (1998-present, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders) had 56 interceptions―a tied record for 13 defensive touchdowns with Roy Woodson and Darren Sharper. He is also tied with Sharper, with 11 Pick 6s.
Ty Law (1995-2005, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Denver Broncos) has 52 interceptions.
Champ Bailey (1999-2014, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos, and New Orleans Saints) also has 52 interceptions.
Sammy Knight (1997-2008, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants) has 42 interceptions.
Ed Reed (2002-2013, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, New York Jets) holds the highest and second highest record for the longest interception return, with 108 yards and 106 yards, respectively. He also holds the record for the most interception return yardage in the NFL history with 1541 yards, with 64 interceptions to his name.
Brett Favre (1991-2010, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Falcons, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings) holds the record for the most number of interception passes thrown with 336.
Rodney Harrison (1994-2008, San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots) is the first player to have 30 sacks and 30 interceptions.
Ray Lewis (1996-2012, Baltimore Ravens) is the only player to make a 40/30- meaning 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career.
Ronde Barber (1997-2012, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) is the only player in the NFL to have 26 sacks and 40 interceptions in total.
Asante Samuel (2003-2013, New England Partiots, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons) is the all-time NFL leader with 4 post-season Pick 6s.
James Harrison (2002-present, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Rhein Fire, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengal, Pittsburgh Steelers) holds the record for the longest Pick 6 at a 100 yards.
Tom Brady (2000-present, New England Patriots) set the record for the highest number of consecutive pass attempts without being intercepted, at 358. He also holds the record for the highest touchdown/interception ratio at 9:1.
Matt Schaub (2004-present, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders) is the first player to make a Pick 6 in four consecutive games against the San Francisco 49ers.
So now you know what pick 6 is with some of the coolest stats presented to you. The next time you have football night, you are sure to enjoy it a lot better!