ADA, Ohio — What is handcrafted in a white and red building located, in Ada, Ohio, is about to thrill millions of fans.
It is the Wilson Football Factory. Every NFL football since 1941 has been made here. There's no automation, everything is sewn, turned and laced by hand. Over 20 steps go into making a football.
This team keeps an eye out for their work on the field.
“The biggest point for me is just that kick off when I know everyone's got their eyes on that ball that I made. It's a really nice feeling,” said Caitlin Long, who is a lock stich operator at the Wilson Football Factory. She is one of only 2 person that sew the footballs for the NFL.
“It's pretty cool. Knowing that what we do ends up bringing happiness to all those people watching the game,” remarked Adam Badertscher, a lacer at Wilson.
Each team gets 108 balls with the game logo, 54 for practice and 54 for the game, along with six kicking balls. Employees like Caitlin Long start work minutes after the championship game to get the job done.
She’s sewn every ball you’ll see on the big day.
“I made every single one. I try not to think about it. It’s a lot,” said Long. “It's still very exciting to me that I get to be a part of something that people are very passionate about.”
“I know like the kicker balls this year, I laced all the kicker balls. Any one of them balls that they kick, it's like, I know I laced that,” added Badertscher with a smile.
And they get to take the show to Phoenix as part of the NFL Experience, showing off their hard work to the crowds.
“It's amazing to see how many people come out and are just amazed at how a football is made when they come through and watch how it's done,” said Badertscher.
“You basically get to see a football from the half sections to when it's finished,” said Long.
When it is kickoff, it’s not just Philadelphia and Kansas City’s pride on the line.
“We're in the center stage of it all. But at the same time, not very many people know that it comes from the small community of Ada, Ohio,” said Chris Kahle, the engineering manager for the Wilson Football Factory.
Some 700,000 footballs a year come from this factory floor. The employees understand that football is more than a game.
“Most of my pride from working here comes from knowing that we bring little kid’s toys that bring joy. Well, I guess we bring toys to grown adults, too, to bring them joy, too,” said Badertscher.
“People don't realize the hard work and craftsmanship that goes into something like as ordinary as a football,” reflected Long. “Everyone probably has one at their house or kids have one, but you don't think about the amount of people that sit there and work so hard day in, day out with their hands and work and their shoulders and everything. To bring a smile to someone's face. They could go to a little kid and for Christmas, I could go to the NFL.”
Not only are the game balls made in Ohio, but after the Super Bowl, a few of them make their way back to the Buckeye State to be put on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.