There aren’t many things more classically American than football, so it’s only appropriate that the namesake of America’s favorite sport would be made somewhere in the country that founded it. That place is the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio, situated just 150 miles from where the National Football League was originally formed in Canton. Ada is a small town even by small-town standards, occupying an area of just 2 square miles with about 6,000 residents. The Wilson Factory was built in 1955, and each and every NFL football that’s been used since was made right there in Ada.
Wilson makes their patented footballs with leather sourced from Horween Leather Company in Chicago – one of the oldest continuously operating tanneries in America. Unlike many automated factories, each step of the Wilson process is expertly guided by the hands of an Ada resident, several of whom were taught by their own parents who worked in the same factory. The staff is close-knit; the workers are quick to describe the team’s dynamic as a family. A large portion of the staff grew up together, and they make it a point to be there for each other both inside the factory and out.
For the employees at the Wilson Factory, there is an enormous level of pride that goes into making an NFL football. Every year the Super Bowl is the single most-watched television broadcast in America, and the Wilson Factory employees take satisfaction in knowing that they made the ball that’s being watched by hundreds of millions of viewers across America.