Football players wear towels to give them a place to wipe their hands so they stay clean and dry. This helps them grip the ball better and avoid fumbling, dropping passes, or throwing off target. There are also special fanny packs that quarterbacks can wear where they can stash hand warmers which can be useful if the conditions are cold, wet, and windy.
Growing up as a quarterback who played in Alaska, I was no stranger to cold, wet, and numb hands. I would typically go through a couple of towels on those rainy fall days in an attempt to keep my fingers functional and it was amazing how big of a difference it made.
Are towels simply for quarterbacks, or should other positions use them too? Why on earth would you see a towel on a center when they barely touch the football? We’ll explain it all in the article below.
- Players use towels to wipe their hands to keep them clean and dry
- This helps prevent fumbling or dropping passes while enabling quarterbacks to throw more accurately in wet conditions
- Quarterbacks will sometimes secure their towel to their Center so that it doesn’t impede their movement once the ball is snapped
How Do Players Secure Their Towels?
Some players will simply stuff their towel into their belt and trust on a tight fit to keep it secure. But there are also some specific towels specially designed for the gridiron. These come with velcro attachments that are meant to wrap around the player’s belt and be held in place. 
While both of these can work, neither is foolproof and it’s not uncommon to see a stray towel go flying during a play. Sometimes a player will notice that a towel has gotten loose before the play and will chuck it out of the way before the ball is snapped.
What Positions Wear Towels?
The majority of football players you see wearing towels are quarterbacks. Having clean, dry hands is most important for this position so that they can properly grip the ball and avoid fumbling. Having a firm, dry grip also improves a quarterback’s accuracy and arm strength on passing plays. 
Other skill position players that handle the ball a lot may also choose to stash a towel on their belt including running backs and receivers. On cold or wet days, wiping their hands or gloves on the towel between plays can keep them as dry as possible and improve their grip or ability to catch a ball thrown at high velocity.
In some instances, quarterbacks may want access to a towel but don’t want to be encumbered by it once the ball is snapped. In theory, a defender could grab the towel and use it to slow down the quarterback and make the play. Instead, the quarterback may stash their towel on the back of the center so that they can dry their hands just before the snap but not have to worry about it getting in the way during the play. 
Sometimes Simpler is Better
For quarterbacks, there is also a special fanny pack they can wear. These are more cumbersome than a simple towel but also have special compartments where hand warmers can be placed which allows them to both dry and warm their hands between plays. Since they’re bigger and more awkward, using a towel is preferable if conditions allow. But if it’s cold and wet, adding a little extra weight and going with one of these specialized fanny packs may be the way to go. 
In a competitive game like professional football, finding any sort of edge that you can could make the difference between a catch and an incompletion, a victory, and a defeat. Having clean and dry hands can go a long way to making this difference, and if something as simple as a towel can accomplish this, why wouldn’t you utilize it?