From cowhide to laces: How is an official Super Bowl football made?

ATLANTA — You may think a touchdown starts on the field, but really, it starts long before -- when the football is made.

Channel 2's Berndt Petersen was at the Georgia World Congress Center, where workers from Wilson were building official NFL Super Bowl footballs, from cowhide to laces.

Wilson workers set up an assembly line so fans could see exactly how the process is done. Wilson has been the only company to make footballs since the NFL was formed in 1941. The company makes 700,000 every year.

Super Bowl game balls are more of a rarity: Each team gets 54 footballs, and all 108 of them will be used during the game.

Petersen talked to Katie Long, Jim Gatchell, Deb Ellis and Brian Connolly, Wilson employees who all have different roles in the footballs' production.


Long is a lockstitch operator, or someone who sews together the footballs with huge needles.

"The first time I hurt myself on my machine, I was congratulated by all the sewers," Long said. "It was the weirdest thing. I'm injured and we're celebrating!"

Gatchell is a ball turner. The leather is sewed inside out, so Gatchell's job is to turn the ball right-side out.

"This bar has grooves on it," Gathcell said. "I put my fingers on the base of the bar and steady it. Then I begin to work it through the opening where the laces will go."

Deb Ellis is a bladder lacer. Her job is to put a rubber bag in the bag, add some air and lace it up.

"Once I get done with this, you will not be able to get that lace out. You'll have to cut it out," Ellis said.

Finally, Brian Connolly is a mold operator. His job is to inflate the ball to 110 pounds, then slowly deflate to the league-required 13 pounds of pressure.

In the Wilson's factory in Ohio, it takes two days to make a football, but on the assembly line in Atlanta, the crew put one together in just 20 minutes.