To be an expert on the actual ball in American football is a little more involved than you might think.
We’ve pulled together 50 fast facts on the American football in a question-and-answer format. After you’ve read through these, you might not be a top authority, but you’ll know a lot more than the average football fan.
Enjoy this deep dive into the ball.
Questions and Answers on The American Football
1.) Why do NFL footballs have “The Duke” printed on them?
“The Duke” football is named after the New York Giants owner, Wellington Mara. Wellington was named by his father after the Duke of Wellington. When he worked as a ball boy for the Giants in 1925, players gave him the nickname, The Duke. When founder Tim Mara struck the deal with Wilson Sporting Goods Co. to be the official football supplier to the NFL, they adopted the nickname “The Duke” for their NFL balls.
The Duke was used on balls for one year in 1969. When Wellington passed away in 2005, the name returned to the balls and hasn’t left.
2.) How long has Wilson supplied the NFL with footballs?
Since the NFL was established in 1941, a Wilson football has been the designated football of the league.
3.) Where are NFL footballs made?
NFL game balls are all handcrafted at Wilson’s plant in Ada, Ohio. The population of Ada is 5,256.
4.) What do the eight stars represent on the NFL logo on the ball?
5.) Why does the NFL logo have a shield profile?
The shield represents the organization’s commitment to the highest standard of sporting entertainment.
The More You Know About the Ball
6.) What does the ball on the NFL logo meant to look like?
The ball was designed to look like the ball on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, given to Super Bowl winners.
7.) How much does an authentic NFL football cost?
Authentic NFL Game balls made of leather sell for $159.95 on Amazon.com.
8.) What is one of the most expensive footballs ever sold?
The Johnny Unitas to Raymond Berry touchdown ball from the 1958 NFL Title games sold for $62,140 at auction. The Baltimore Sun called the game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium “the Greatest Game Ever Played.”
9.) How much is a Patriots AFC Championship Game “Deflategate” ball worth?
Well, a fan was handed one such Deflategate ball in 2015. She ended up putting it up for auction and selling it for $44,000.
10.) When are Super Bowl balls made?
Workers can’t complete the special Super Bowl balls until the teams playing in the Super Bowl are determined. The names of both participating teams, along with the date and location of the game, are printed on the balls.
History of the Pigskin Q & A
11.) Were footballs once round in shape?
Yes, footballs were once round. It became apparent that a round ball, in addition to being awkward to carry, was very difficult to throw with any accuracy. In 1897, football moved to an ovoidal shape.
12.) Why is a football called a “pigskin”?
Footballs were originally made with a pig’s bladder. Why a pig’s bladder? They were roughly the right shape, easy enough to inflate, long-lasting, and plentiful. The inner tube of a football has been replaced with synthetic materials, but the name “pigskin” continues on.
13.) When was the football made skinnier and more convenient to throw?
In 1912, the football moved to a sleeker, narrower-at-the-ends look that we know today.
Colors and Accessories
14.) Were footballs ever a different color?
In 1956, white footballs were approved for use in night games to make the ball easier to see. This was discontinued because it made the ball slick.
15.) Did footballs ever have locks on them?
A protective layer of leather was placed to cover pigskins in the early days. Nevertheless, the ball often needed inflating. To accomplish this, refs stopped play and unlocked the ball so that others could inflate it. The lock apparently helped keep the ball inflated longer.
16.) Were rubber footballs ever used?
Rubber footballs were tried briefly in 1951.
17.) Who is considered the father of American Football?
Walter Camp is credited with creating American Football. He altered the rules of rugby to create the foundation of the game we know today. The point system, the QB position, the line of scrimmage, the use of downs, and the number of players per side were all influenced by Camp. You have to imagine he had some input as to the makeup of the ball as well.
The Football: Physical Makeup of the Ball
18.) What are the dimensions of an NFL football?
Per NFL guidelines, footballs for NFL use should be 11.0 to 11.25 inches long and have a long circumference of 28.0 to 28.5 inches. The long circumference is obtained by measuring around the ball from end to end.
19.) What is the inflated PSI of an NFL football, and how much does a football weigh?
Balls have an air pressure of 13 psi. NFL footballs weigh 14-16 ounces.
20.) Do NFL footballs have stripes?
NFL balls do not have stripes. Perhaps the biggest difference between college and NFL balls is that the college balls have two one-inch strips located about 3 inches from either end of the ball.
Size, Needle, and Chips
21.) Are NFL footballs the same size as college footballs?
NFL footballs are slightly larger than college footballs. An NFL football’s circumference is 21 to 21.25 inches, while a college ball’s is 20.75 to 21.25 inches.
22.) Why do you wet a needle before inflating a football?
One moistens a needle with saliva or water to help prevent pushing the valve into the bladder or causing a leak.
23.) Why are there chips in NFL footballs?
Since the 2017-18 NFL season, chips have been placed in NFL footballs. The chips are RFID chips which stand for radio frequency identification. It’s the same technology used in Apple Airtags.
The NFL can measure things like acceleration speed, distance traveled, and ball location. When you hear a TV analyst talk about top speed for a running back or a receiver with the ball, they’re likely referencing data picked up by the RFID chips.
24.) How many laces are there on an NFL football?
Every ball has just one lace that is laced through 16 holes. This forms 8 laces for a player to grip.
25.) How many panels are on each ball?
Four panels of leather from cow hides make up each ball.
Making A Football
26.) How many NFL balls are made a year?
Wilson provides NFL teams with at least 24,960 official “The Duke” game balls each season to use in games and practices.
27.) How many NFL balls are used per game?
By NFL guidelines, 54 game balls must be ready for outdoor games and 30 game balls for indoor games. They must be made available for referee testing two and a half hours before game time.
28.) What is a ball made of?
From pigskin to… cowhide. The predominant material of NFL footballs is steer hide. Since the late 1980s, the bladder of NFL footballs has been made of polyurethane. Polyurethane
29.) How many NFL balls can be made from one steer hide?
About 10 to 12 footballs can be made from one steer hide.
30.) How many footballs can be made in one day?
Wilson’s factory in Ada, Ohio, can make 4,000 footballs every day. That’s a lot of cutting, sewing, lacing, and inflating.
How To Make A Football Video
Insights On Handling the Ball
31.) What’s the difference between a spiral snap and a dead snap for shotgun hikes?
A dead snap is when the center snaps the ball back to the quarterback, and the ball is flipped back end over end. With a spiral snap, both ends of the ball stay in the same direction until reaching the QB’s hands.
The dead snap was popularized by Pop Warner many years ago. It has been used in college football for some time and is now being seen more regularly in the NFL.
32.) Can NFL players toss the ball into the stands after scoring a touchdown?
NFL players can hand a football to an individual fan, but tossing the ball or kicking the ball into the crowd is a fine-able offense. The NFL is worried about fans diving for balls and the possibility of fights breaking out. A first-time offender of this rule is fined $7,210, and a second offense is a $12,360 fine.
33.) How many balls does Wilson deliver to each team for a game?
Wilson provides 108 balls per week to each team. Half of them (54) are designated as practice balls. Of the 54 balls for games, 12 are designated as kicking balls.
Grip It and Rip It
34.) Are there really two types of balls for NFL games?
Yes, there are kicking balls and regular game balls. The “K” balls are sent directly to the stadium to be opened by the referees.
35.) How much can a receiver’s gloves help him catch a ball?
It’s estimated that the best receiving gloves give a receiver 20 percent more grip force. They also reduce cuts and abrasions.
36.) How do quarterbacks grip the ball?
Each QB seemingly has his own way of gripping a football for effective throws. There is no one technique recognized as the most effective. Some prefer throwing the ball with their fingers on the seam instead of the laces. Chicago Bears’ Vince Evans threw the ball with his thumb on the laces.
37.) Are there situations where a QB grips the ball differently?
On a fast screen pass, sometimes called “Smoke,” most QBs do not even consider rotating the ball to their favorite grip. It’s more of a grab the ball and throw it without thinking of hand positioning on the laces.
Tapping the Ball
38.) Why do QBs tap the ball before throwing it?
Much like a baseball fielder might smack his pocket in a baseball glove out of habit, a football QB tapping the ball is likely just habit. It may help with his timing of the throw.
39.) How are NFL footballs prepped before use in games?
Each team may have their own recipe for prepping a ball. The New York Giants’ procedure was outlined in a New York Times article. It includes the following:
A.) With a brush, the ball is rubbed vigorously for 45 minutes to remove the was. This also darkens the leather.
B.) A wet towel scours the ball until the outer surface is soaked through.
C.) While wet, the ball is scrubbed again.
D.) An electric spin wheel puts the ball through a high-speed scrubbing.
E.) The ball is set aside, and then the process is repeated twice over the next few days.
F.) The ball is then put through practice with the team.
G.) The best balls are selected, usually with the QB1’s approval, for the game ball bag.
40.) Where do used balls go?
Many are kept by the team for use in practice. If there’s more wear and tear on the ball, the ball may be donated, auctioned off, or disposed of.
Interesting American Football Fun Facts
41.) When was the first forward pass in American Football?
The first forward pass took place on October 27, 1906, when George “Peggy” Parratt of Massillon threw to Dan “Bullet” Riley in an Ohio League game. The goal of increasing passing the game of football was in hopes that it would make it less violent. Prior to the forward pass, football was very much a running and kicking game.
42.) Where does the pebbly look and feel come from on an American football?
A ball’s pebbly texture comes from a 57,000-pound press pushing down on the leather. The small bumps are designed to make the ball easier to catch.
43.) Are Canadian footballs bigger than American NFL footballs?
Canadian footballs used to be slightly bigger. The dimensions now are essentially the same. Wilson supplies the Wilson Official CL Game Ball.
44.) Why is having a quarterback with big hands considered advantageous?
Bigger hands are assumed to enable the QB more control of the football and be less likely to turn it over. Some feel it is an advantage to throw the ball with bigger hands as well.
Records in the Game
45.) What is the longest punt in NFL history?
Jet’s punter Steve O’Neal booted a 98-yard punt against the Denver Broncos his rookie year in 1969.
46.) How far is the longest field goal in NFL history?
Justin Tucker kicked a 66-yard field goal to help his Baltimore Ravens beat the Detroit Lions on September 26, 2021.
47.) How far was the farthest a ball has been thrown in an NFL game?
Randall Cunningham threw the ball 76 yards in the air in a 1993 NFL game. It is said that Josh Allen threw a football 80 yards in the air while at the University of Wyoming during his Pro Day.
48.) What three QBs have the highest career passer rating?
1.) Patrick Mahomes: 104.8.
2.) Aaron Rodgers: 103.6.
3.) DeShaun Watson: 101.1.
49.) How fast do NFL quarterbacks throw the ball?
It’s estimated that the fastest guns in the NFL throw the ball at around 60 mph.
50.) How long does an NFL quarterback typically hold the ball?
NFL quarterbacks know that in most situations, they need to get rid of the ball in three seconds or less. If they don’t, they’re more likely to be pressured, sacked, and have a negative play outcome.
I hope you enjoyed our look at the football.
By Mike O’Halloran
Mike is the founder and editor of Sports Feel Good Stories. He was a contributing writer at USA Football, the youth arm of the NFL.
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