A combination of pass routes where one receiver’s route is designed to cause him to run into the defender guarding another receiver.
This is also called a pick play. There are two receivers in this combination. One is the player to whom the play is designed to go. The other receiver is essentially going to block the defender guarding the primary receiver. It is like setting a pick in basketball, hence the other name. Of course, blocking a defender in coverage or picking him is illegal since it is offensive pass interference. However, if a receiver happens to rub up against a defender while he is running his route, that typically won’t draw a flag.
Many coaches use rub routes or routes that will be very close to being rub routes depending on the coverage. Usually crossing patterns alone are not enough. The receivers must also have their timing down to increase the likelihood of making contact.
In 2014 Oregon sparked their comeback against Michigan State with a long touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter. The route in question, which is above, is a typical rub route.
Gridiron Glossary is a resource for football terms that are often used by commentators, coaches and players but rarely defined. If there is a term you have questions about or a definition you don’t agree with, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.