Wilson Footballs: Made in the USA
Since 1941, every point scored in the NFL has been with a Wilson football from Ada, Ohio
Each year, millions of fans sit down to watch the Super Bowl. When the camera focuses on the ball right before kickoff, it is focusing on a product that is American made. Every point that has ever been scored in a Super Bowl since 1941 has been made in Wilson’s factory in Ada, Ohio.
The Wilson Factory, located 70 miles outside of Toledo, Ohio, was opened in the 1930s by the Ohio-Kentucky Manufacturing Co. The firm produced footballs, baseball gloves, and boxing gloves. In 1955, Wilson purchased the company and decided to focus solely on footballs.
“Since 1941, every point scored in the NFL has been with a Wilson football. We are very proud of that relationship and want that to continue. We try to make the best-quality product in the world for them,” said Dan Riegle, Wilson Football plant manager.
From the leather to laces, Wilson’s footballs are 100% American-made. From farm to factory, the hide is then cut into oval panels which will eventually be sewn together to make the body of the ball. To maintain its shape, a liner is sewn inside the ball as well as a bladder for inflation. Wilson buys 15,000 to 20,000 feet of cowhide per week from a leather manufacturer in Chicago. One cowhide can produce as many as 20 footballs. From there, the balls are sewn together, stamped with logos, hand laced and inspected thoroughly. Nothing on the factory floor is automated. The plant’s workers don’t use high-tech equipment. Instead, they use sewing machines from the mid-1900s, and they stitch the football lacings completely by hand. It is a multi-step process that involves many different people.
The plant’s workers’ day begins just before 5 am when almost every headlight in the small town points to the Wilson parking lot. The plant workers belong to Workers United Local 1385. Many of the plant workers have been there for generations. Husbands and wives, mothers and daughters all work side by side. The average employee has worked at the plant for 20 years. Peg Price and her husband Dick have worked at Wilson for 42 and 45 years, respectively.
The Super Bowl is when working in the Wilson Factory gets really special. Because the Super Bowl game balls have the names of the two teams stamped on the side, a handful of employees will watch the conference championships at the factory, waiting for the precise moment that the last game has ended and they can get to work. Two days later, more than 100 official Super Bowl footballs will be ready to ship.
Except for a few minor adjustments, the Wilson football made in Ada, Ohio is pretty much the same as it has always been. And that’s the point. They make the best footballs.