Inside the making of the footballs for Super Bowl 50

ADA, Oh. (WTVQ)- Cut by but, stamp by stamp, stitch by stitch and lace by lace, history is made in Ada, Ohio.

“We’re going down to show them how a football is being made.” That’s the attitude from employees at the Wilson NFL football factory. This time of year though, they’re a little busier though because of the Super Bowl.

You don’t have to be from the small town off I-75 to appreciate the volume of the work produced at the factory. They make 3,000 footballs a day, it’s all done by hand with weathered fingers helping craft the brushes NFL quarterbacks use to color their canvas yard by yard, panel by panel, with no margin for error.

“I’d like to think that might be my ball out there on that field,” says one employee as she cuts panels out of a cow hide.

Super Bowl 50 is the first time roman numerals haven’t been featured in the annual logo. This year marks the 50th time Wilson employees have shaped the game.

“I’m stamping the logo on the NFL,” says another employee. She feeds freshly cut panels into a machine which puts logos on the leather. “It’s great, this is the big Super Bowl.”

The process is painstaking. Sewing machines are operated by people, not programs. Everything is done by hand and has been since the 1950 when Wilson moved into the Ada location.

“It means a lot because it’s not machine operated. It’s all people power,” says someone involved in the stitching process. She’s using a foot-pedal sewing machine to bring the panels together. It takes four to make the shape of the ball before it’s passed along to Emmitt. His role, like all others is vital. he turns things right-side out, emerging the first glimpse at the historic ball.

“I know every point going to be scored, I touched that ball,” says Emmitt. By the way, he’s been to his fair share of Super Bowl games.

Like Emmitt, Donna plays a key role in the final processes once the football starts taking shape. Her department is “bladder and lace”. She inserts the rubber portion of the ball which holds the air before lacing it up, by hand.

“How many people in America bladder and lace? They’re all right here. Less than 25 people do this job,” she says.

Finally the ball is handed off to quality control. It’s what you might imagine for a Super Bowl ball.

“We’re checking the laces and making sure they weigh good.”

There are cuts, stamps, stitches, lacing, brushing and straightening all to ensure Super Bowl success and it all starts at the Wilson football plant in Ada, Ohio.


Categories: Local News, News

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