Wilson Sporting Goods, which calls itself "the world's leading manufacturer of ball sports equipment," has made the official NFL game ball that you see during every snap since 1941.
The Chicago-based firm says its core sports also include tennis, baseball, golf, basketball, softball, badminton and squash, but football is the heart of Ada, Ohio. Since 1955, the town has been the only factory dedicated to making just footballs year-round -- with 3,000 to 4,000 produced a day. Jobs in the factory -- where nothing is automated -- have some unusual titles: bladder maker, cutter and turner.
Willie Smith, who's been with Wilson for 27 years, is the bladder man. The jovial worker is the only one to make Wilson's secret inner casing, similar to an inner tube, and his name appears on every one. For 42 years, Cheryl Mullins has been a Wilson cutter -- creating leather panels to surround the bladder. Mullins and the team of cutters average 1,200 cut panels each day.
On Charles Moore Turn
Then there is Charlie Moore, turner for 44 years. The now-retired Dallas Cowboys fan spent his entire career turning and shaping footballs on the line, the most strenuous job in the factory. Wilson estimates that Moore turned more than a million footballs in his career, averaging around 500 per day. "Forty-four years I turned footballs. Never hurt my hands until I retired," he said, laughing. His name lives on -- the factory's address was recently changed to Charles Moore Turn.
The Wilson brand focuses on its grassroots and community. That happens through its care and attention to employees, athletic clinics and events like the annual Ada factory sale. Because of activity throughout various sports, Wilson considers itself to be in the sport itself.
"It's that hard work. It's that craftsmanship. It's awesome," Wilson President Chris Considine says when describing the football embodying the Wilson brand.
"We are committed to providing the best players with the best product in the world. Without Wilson footballs, the game would be pointless," the company says in an Ohio economic development site.
If you are in northeastern Ohio, look for the white water tower with the Wilson and NFL logos. You're in the "NFL capital of the world," as Moore describes it.