Behind the ball: See how footballs for the Super Bowl are made
Michelle Burkett cuts a sheet of leather into four panels to make the official football for Super Bowl XLIV, featuring the Colts and Saints. The Wilson Sporting Goods football factory in Ada, Ohio, began making the game balls Sunday night immediately after the conclusion of the NFC and AFC championship games.
Pieces of the puzzle
Quality control expert Pam Clark shows off the four cut leather panels used for a ball. The factory, located about 80 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio, has been supplying the NFL with footballs since 1941.
Attention to detail
Melissa Putman snips threads from the stitched lining of one of the four panels. She's one of about 150 employees at the factory.
Jane Helser sews together the full ball. Helser sews the ball on the inside to hide the stiching.
Glenn Hanson sews together the ball. Hanson has been doing the stitching of the official balls for 37 years and is planning on retiring before next year's Super Bowl is played.
Emmitt Lawrence turns the game balls to right side out. The average tenure of a Wilson factory worker exceeds 20 years.
Wava Howard stitches the outside of the ball, along the laces.
Quality control expert Pam Clark reaches for one of the unfinished balls, stacked in a bin before being inflated. The factory makes thousands of footballs each year.
Lace ups, no velcro
Sue Nichols laces a ball. The factory has been making the official balls since the first Super Bowl in 1966.
Nichols laces another ball. The method hasn't changed much in the last six decades.
Inspector Micki Adams measures one of the official game balls. The game balls must measure 28 inches end to end and 21 inches around the middle.
Worth the weight
Adams weighs one of the official balls. The game balls must all weigh between 14 and 15 ounces.
One last look
Final inspectors, from left, Micki Adams, Barb Harnishfeger, and June Hamilton, examine the balls. Adams says that in choosing balls, they look for tight strings, lots of pebble on the surface, perfect stitching and printing, and "They just have to feel right."
Footballs selected as official game balls for Super Bowl XLIV sit in a bin. They'll be shipped to Miami, where the Colts and Saints will play on Feb. 7, 2010. About 40 balls are used during a typical game, but the Super Bowl will have three times that amount.