Ohio plant workers take pride in making Super Bowl footballs


Mike Householder

Associated Press

ADA — Every time Peyton Manning throws a pass or Cam Newton takes off to run in Sunday’s Super Bowl, they’ll be gripping a football made in a quaint Ohio village 2,000 miles away.

Ada, Ohio, is home to the Wilson Sporting Goods factory that makes footballs used by the NFL, many of the nation’s top college teams, high schools, and more.

The Wilson football brand is so dominant that plant manager Dan Riegle says every offensive point scored in an NFL game since 1941 was with one of the company’s footballs.

“We’re kind of proud of that fact,” Riegle said.

The factory’s 100-plus employees make between 3,000 and 4,000 footballs a day and around 700,000 per year, according to Riegle, who said Wilson sent Manning’s Denver Broncos and Newton’s Carolina Panthers 108 footballs each after the teams qualified for this year’s NFL title game near San Francisco. The footballs feature the Super Bowl 50 logo, the team names, the date of the game, and its location.

“We treat it just like we do every other football we make, yet we know this ball is a little bit different — especially since it’s Super Bowl 50. I mean, that’s pretty big,” Riegle said.

The game’s pretty big for Sue Nichols, too.

The 27-year employee of the Wilson plant, where she laces the footballs, will watch the big game thinking, “maybe that’s the ball that I laced.

“It could have been one that I touched and put the laces in it,” she said. “And now they’re out there on the field and using something that I did.”

Plus, Nichols has another reason to tune in.

“I’m from North Carolina originally, so I’m a big Panthers fan,” she said.

Her prediction?

“I think Cam’ll do it.”

If he does, it will be with a Wilson football, of course, Riegle said.

“You need to keep your eye on the ball, because without us the game would be pointless,” he said with a smile.

Mike Householder

Associated Press

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