The half-back is the primary rusher on an offense, and had a main job of gaining yardage by running the ball, or running a route and making receptions. Half-backs tend to be small (5'8"-5'10") and agile. The fullback typically runs much less than the halfback, and primarily blocks for the halfback and protects for the quarterback. Some fullbacks also catch passes well. Fullbacks tend to be around 6'0", and are bulky and powerful.
Backs are called backs because they are in back of the line of scrimmage. In the old tee-formation, the farthest offensive guy from the line of scrimmage was the fullback, because he was all the way at the end of the tee. Similarly, the halfback was positioned halfway between the fullback and the line of scrimmage, and the quarterback was positioned one-fourth of the way between the line of scrimmage and the fullback. Other formations, of course, are used these days, but the old names for the positions has persisted.
Generally, fullbacks are bigger than halfbacks and spend more time blocking than actually running with the football. In a two-back offense, the fullback lines up directly behind the quarterback and in front of the halfback and will often be the lead blocker in the running game. Fullbacks are utilized more in a power-bases running offense and might see more extensive rushing attempts in short-yardage situations. In today's game, fullbacks are often utilized as pass-catchers much more than they used to be.
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