Much has changed throughout the Super Bowl’s 51-year history; one thing, however, remains constant: scoring a touchdown with a Wilson football. Since 1941, the company has crafted these leather missiles that have to be recognized as the iconic instrument of the the sport.
This past weekend Houstonia visited the Wilson Mobile Football Factory at the NFL Experience, hosted at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and witnessed the five basic steps:
Every football starts out as flat leather pieces. The top half and the bottom half each consist of two eye-shaped petals, and are pre-manufactured in the factory. If the color looks off, that’s because they are sewn inside out.
Multiple procedures are accomplished at this station. First, the leather case is softened in a steaming machine. Then it gets hammered and flipped right side out on a stick.
Lacing is arguably the most aesthetic step in making a football. A Wilson employee puts in a bladder and inflates it. Then, she takes a white leather cord and threads the ball shut.
This is where it becomes official. The football gets pressurized up to 120 pounds of force per square inch (or PSI; that’s the average pressure in a bicycle tire) in an aluminum tube. Finally, the pressure goes back down to 13 PSI and the ball is brushed to be as shiny as it is sturdy.
Patrons of the NFL Experience also had the option add a personal touch to their made-to-order football, such as decals, team logos and signatures.