Contrary to popular lore, footballs are not made of pigskin but rather from the hide of butchered cows. In the beginning steps of making a football, the entire side hide of a cow is used. Higher quality footballs are made from the rear hide of the cow hide, while lesser quality balls are made from the lower or belly area. A football shaped stencil, much like a cookie cutter, is placed upon the hide. A machine then presses upon the cutter and this cuts out a football shaped panel. This is repeated over and over until the entire hide has been used up making football panels.
Pressing and Sewing
Once the panels have been cut, they are sent to a machine for pressing. During this step logos are placed upon a number of panels. After pressing, the leather panels are sewn together with a vinyl cotton panel to give it added strength and stability. Once all panels have liners, these lined panels are sewn together wrong side out. The only opening in the ball at this point is where the laces will be.
The Finishing Process
The football is now placed on a machine that flattens the ends, and then on to a second machine that will break the ends in. Now the football needs to be turned inside out. In order to easily turn the football inside out it is placed in a steam box. This softens the leather and makes the turning process easier. A polyeurethane bladder is now inserted into the ball. The bladder holds the air in. Several pounds of air pressure are pumped into the ball in order to give it enough shape for the lacers to add the laces to the ball. Once the laces are on, the ball is then placed into a machine that puts over 100 pounds of air pressure in the ball. Once the ball comes out of this pressurizing machine, it goes back down to 13 pounds of air pressure and is then ready to be packaged and sent to its final destination, whether it is the Superbowl or a youngster's birthday party.