Making of a Wilson football part of SB50's NFL Experience

- When the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, each team will be playing with 120 official game balls.

Wilson Sporting Goods Co. has been making footballs for the NFL for the past 75 years and is celebrating their 50th year as the official ball of the Super Bowl.

At the NFL Experience, fans can get an up close and personal look at the Wilson workshop and the craft that goes into making the perfect pigskin.

It begins with Cheryl Crisenbery sewing four pieces of leathers together inside-out. Crisenbery has been with the company for about 20 years and sews about 40,000 balls each year.

“Just knowing you’re making a Super Bowl ball, it’s a different feeling,” she said.

After sewing, the ball is given to Wes Dilroy. He operates a steam box that makes the ball more pliable. It allows him to pull the sides of the ball down on a pole and iron the seams to turn the ball right-side out. Dilroy has been turning balls for Wilson for 40 years.

“It’s hard for me to estimate, but they say I’ve made about 40 million balls in my whole time here,” he said.

Pam Boutwell laces up the ball in about a minute. She too has worked many years with Wilson and has gotten her lacing down to a science.

“Then the next step, it goes to molding,” Boutwell explained.

A machine applies 120 pounds of air pressure to give the ball its shape before quality control determines whether or not it can pass as an official game ball.

“The footballs that we give to the teams for the Super Bowl is 120,” Molly Wallace, Director of Experiential Marketing said. “108 are on the field for regular play and 12 are special for the kickers.”

Wallace said each ball will be used at the Super Bowl because the teams want to authenticate each ball to either keep or use for charity.

That is why it makes it even more special if a child were to receive a ball, say after Cam Newton makes a touchdown during the game.

“The value of that ball is very high during the Super Bowl,” she added.

Each football is truly a hand-crafted product of teamwork.

“I’m proud that we make the balls,” Dilory added. “To me, it’s the best ball in the world.”

Balls can be purchased at the Wilson workshop display inside the NFL Experience. They can be customized with names or logos from any NFL teams. Footballs range in price from $10 to $200.

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