Throughout American sports history, no other brand has been partnered with a major American sports league longer than Wilson has been with the NFL. At the center of this partnership is Wilson’s iconic “The Duke” NFL Football.
Since the establishment of the NFL in 1941, “The Duke” has been at the heart of the game.
More than 700,000 footballs a year have been handmade at the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio.
They’ve built footballs for Super Bowl champs, MVPs and Hall of Famers. But they put the same love and passion into every ball, each step along the way – making milestones for youth leagues, Friday night hometown heroes, college All-Americans and the NFL’s elite.
While it’s easy to imagine that a factory that produces upwards of 2,500 footballs a day would be largely automated and machine-run, this could not be further from the truth. Each “The Duke” NFL football is hand-made in Wilson’s Ada, OH factory. From the cutting and stamping to sewing and lacing, each “The Duke” football is the combined effort of nearly two-dozen expert craftspeople.
Made from 100% exclusive Horween leather by Wilson’s skilled craftsmen and women in Ada, Ohio
Each football starts with four panels of genuine cowhide leather, tanned in nearby Chicago. These panels are cut to size and then sent to have logos and emblems pressed into the surface of the leather. It is here that the signature “The Duke” insignia is stamped into each future game ball.
From there, each panel is sewn together. In order to ensure each ball is constructed to Wilson’s exacting quality standards, the sewing process is especially meticulous and precise – a skill that takes some craftspeople months to master.
Once the ball has been sewn together, it is turned right-side-out, an airtight bladder is inserted and then the ball is laced and inflated. Before “The Duke” is ready for gameplay, it is inspected multiple times for quality assurance and imperfections.
Buy: The Duke NFL Football ($120.00)
Wilson Football Factory
217 Liberty Street
Ada, Ohio 45810
The 10 Most Iconic Super Bowl Footballs
Wilson has been the official ball of the NFL since 1941–the longest official ball partnership in sports (tuck that one away for trivia).
The official leather game footballs are made by hand from 100 percent Horween leather at Wilson’s Ada, Ohio factory.
These footballs have carried the same unyielding quality throughout the years while adapting to the changing needs of the league. Check out “The Duke” football’s design evolution through ten Super Bowl games, starting with the inaugural match in 1967.
JANUARY 15, 1967
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Green Bay Packers
This matchup between the American Football League (AFL) and the National Football League (NFL) took place at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. After a close first half, Green Bay broke the game open, scoring four times in the second half while completing 16 out of 23 passes. The Packers won the game 35-10, with their quarterback named MVP.
JANUARY 12, 1969
Baltimore Colts vs. New York Jets
These two teams played Super Bowl III, the first with the official trademarked “Super Bowl” name, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. Sports historians regard this game as one of the greatest upsets in American football history. On this 66-degree day, the underdog AFL Jets won the game 16-7, obliterating the Colts 18-point Vegas line. The win showcased the athletes as stars, which appealed to more than regular football fans. It also legitimized the young AFL, changed the way fans perceived the sport, and paved the way for the two leagues to merge.
JANUARY 21, 1979
Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This showdown took place at the Orange Bowl and was the last Super Bowl played there. The Steelers and the Cowboys were considered the two best teams of the decade. They both, along with their quarterbacks, won two Super Bowls apiece during the ’70s, which made this arguably the best Super Bowl in history. The Steelers took the lead in the second quarter, and despite a Cowboys rally in the fourth quarter, won 35-31.
JANUARY 25, 1998
Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers
This evenly-matched showdown took place in San Diego with Green Bay favored to win by 11 points. The Broncos had lost four previous Super Bowls, including three in the late 1980s, so the pressure was on to bring home a win. In the third quarter, the Broncos gained traction with a career-defining first down by their quarterback. That play led to a touchdown, giving the Broncos a lead that they held for the rest of the game. Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24.
JANUARY 30, 2000
Tennessee Titans vs. St. Louis Rams
This game, played at the Georgia Dome, happened one week after the conference championship games. By halftime, the Rams had a 9-0 three-field-goal lead over the Titans that they widened to 16-0 in the middle of the third quarter. The Titans rallied and erased that deficit to tie the game with 2:12 left. The Rams retook the lead by completing a 73-yard touchdown pass and then clinched the 23-16 win by tackling a Titans wide receiver one yard short of the goal line, preventing a game-tying Tennessee touchdown.
FEBRUARY 3, 2008
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
The University of Phoenix Stadium witnessed one of the biggest upsets in professional sports history at this Super Bowl. The Patriots completed a perfect 16-game regular season and were favored to win by 12 points. The first three quarters saw low scores, with the Patriots leading by just four points at the end of the third quarter. After each team scored a touchdown in the fourth, the Giants made an 83-yard drive down the field, including the famous 32-yard “Helmet Catch” in the final two minutes of the game. This play led to another first-down conversion and a subsequent touchdown by the Giants, who won the game 17-14.
FEBRUARY 7, 2010
Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints
These two number-one-seeded teams went head-to-head at Dolphin Stadium, with the Colts favored to win by 5 points. By halftime, New Orleans trailed Indianapolis by four points in a 10-6 game. After recovering the ball from an onside kick, the Saints gained momentum and held the Colts to just seven points after the beginning of the third quarter. New Orleans secured their 31-17 victory with a 74-yard pass interception ending with a touchdown.
FEBRUARY 3, 2013
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers
With two Super-Bowl winning teams, and two brothers coaching them, the New Orleans Superdome hosted a game with at least seven nicknames, most notably, “The Blackout Bowl.” This game was a well-played and close competition, punctuated by a 34-minute partial power outage. These two teams were worthy opponents, and the game ended with a 34-31 Ravens win.
FEBRUARY 5, 2017
New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons
The NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, hosted over 70,000 fans to watch the Patriots make their record-setting ninth Super Bowl appearance. The Falcons, working toward a win in their second Super Bowl showing, dominated scoring into the third quarter with a commanding 28-3 lead. Beginning two minutes from the end of the third, New England staged the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, scoring 25 points to tie the game in regulation time. In the first overtime decision in Super Bowl history, the Patriots won the coin toss, received the ball, and drove the ball 75 yards for a touchdown to win the game 34-28.
FEBRUARY 2, 2020
Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers
This Super Bowl brought over 62,000 to the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Garden, Florida. The game saw a change in quarterbacks after seven years of familiar faces and brought the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. San Francisco held Kansas City to 10 points for the first three quarters while scoring 20 points by the beginning of the fourth. In the fourth quarter, Kansas City rebounded with two touchdowns to take the lead and intercepted a San Francisco pass for seven more points with 1:20 left in the game. Final score: Kansas City 31, San Francisco 20.