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Kicking it Old School: The Legacy of Leather Footballs in Modern Game

Every modern NFL player throws and kicks balls made by one company: Wilson. This Ohio-based brand has been creating balls for the NFL since 1941.

No other sports company has had such a long partnership with a major sports league in the world. What does Wilson do great that makes its contract with the NFL so solid?

The obvious answer is that it creates quality footballs consistently. Wilson’s footballs have established a legacy in the world of American football. Continue reading to learn more.

Revolutionized Football Manufacturing

Footballs are sometimes called pigskins. The name originated from how the first generation of American footballs were made. Players would inflate pig bladders and use them to play the game.

Pig bladders were terribly unreliable. They would deflate when pricked by the tiniest of materials. Next came rubber balls. They were better than bladder-made balls. But they provided poor grips. 

Leather balls revolutionized American football. Not only were they sturdier and more durable, but they also provided better handling. Today, the best leather football balls are made of pure leather or composite leather.

Composite leather combines several materials to create affordable balls for college and high school students. Composite footballs are easy to hold and can last for a while. But they’re not as durable as pure leather balls.

Standard Material for NFL Footballs

We’ve already mentioned that the NFL has one source for all its footballs. What we didn’t mention, however, is that Wilson creates its best balls using pure leather.

The Ohio-based company uses cowhide skin to be precise. It uses hides to create the main body of footballs. It also includes a liner to help maintain the ovular shapes of balls.

From there, Wilson includes a rubber bladder to keep footballs inflated for long. In most cases, Wilson also includes the NFL logo on its balls but not before inspecting each ball thoroughly.

Although Wilson has a lion’s share of the football leather market, it’s not the only brand in this niche. Nike creates quality leather balls too. But it mostly targets college teams and not the NFL.

An Important Symbol for American Football

When you think about it, the ovular leather-made football is one of the most important symbols of American football. If you see a Wilson-branded, brown-colored leather ball with white stripes, you immediately associate it with American football.

You might associate it with your favorite Super Bowl moments. But no one can mistake an American football for a rugby ball. You could create a bigger ball and place it next to a rugby ball.

If it’s brown, ovular, has a white bladder, and the iconic Wilson logo, it belongs on an American football field. That said, leather balls would probably not be so iconic if they weren’t dominated by one company.

Imagine if the NFL contracted a different company to create its Super Bowl balls every year. Sure, the balls would all have an ovular shape. But they wouldn’t stand out the way Wilson’s balls do.

Recommended for All Football Levels

Leather footballs aren’t just ideal for NFL players. They’re appropriate for players at all levels. Leather provides excellent grip regardless of the size of your hands. It also helps create accurate, durable, and reliable balls.

Against that backdrop, companies like Nike and Wilson create balls for Pee Wee, Junior, Youth, and professional players using leather. They create small balls to suit kids. But they use standard-sized footballs for players aged 14 years and above.

That said, leather balls aren’t created equal. Manufacturers use different materials to create balls that suit different buyers. As mentioned, they use composites to lower costs. These balls are great for practice at the college and high school levels.

Some companies add bells and whistles to their balls. For example, they may add LED lighting and Internet connectivity. Of course, these balls are more expensive than standard balls. 


Leather footballs aren’t always affordable. But there’s no denying they’re reliable. If you’re looking for quality footballs, leather-made balls are a worthy investment. Sure, they won’t last forever. 

However, these balls can serve you for several years. The best part is that leather balls require little maintenance. Keep them away from water. Inflate them accordingly. And they will serve you for a long time.

3 replies
  1. Bill
    Bill says:

    I’d also like to highlight the importance of considering the licensing agreements when using stock photos. Different stock photo websites have various terms and conditions regarding the use of their images, so it’s crucial to read and understand them.

    For example, Shutterstock typically offers both standard and enhanced licenses. The standard license is suitable for most digital and print uses, while the enhanced license provides additional usage rights, like using images on merchandise for sale. Adobe Stock also has different licensing options, so it’s wise to review those, especially if you plan to use the images for commercial purposes.

    When using free stock photos from sites like Unsplash, remember to give proper attribution to the photographers if required by the license. This not only respects their work but also keeps you in compliance with their terms.

  2. Max
    Max says:

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