The Football

Did you know the oldest football that is still in existence was made around the year 1550?  You can view it on display in the Smith Art Gallery and Museum that is located in Stirling, Scotland.  This historic football was discovered in 1981 inside Stirling Castle. 

The game of football has been around for quite some time.  Some historians believe that the ancient Greeks used to play a version of our modern-day game of football.  It is suspected that the Greek game was played on a rectangle-shaped field that had goal lines on either end.  The evenly divided teams would pass a handball between players, and they would kick, toss, or run with the ball past the opposing team’s goal line.

Around the mid-1800’s, American players began their own version of “football”.  They learned to combine a kicking game with the already established games of soccer and rugby.  The rugby component of the game was introduced from a Canadian college team.  In 1874, students from McGill University in Montreal, Canada challenged students from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The Harvard players introduced the soccer component of the game.  Hence, the combination of rugby and soccer elements of the new game.  In 1876, guidelines were created that outlined this new game of Football.  Representatives from Harvard University and Yale University were involved in the creation of these guidelines.  One new guideline included the use of an oval-shaped ball which, from that point forward, became known as the iconic shaped football.

Original footballs were made with natural materials.  The inside bubble was usually an inflated pig bladder that had a leather covering, perhaps from a deer.  The use of the pig bladder eventually led to the football nickname, the “pigskin”.

Modern footballs are manufactured using plastic or rubber bladders and are surrounded with a pebble-grained leather cover.  The coverings of today’s footballs are very durable and can be tanned quite easily into an ideal color.  Modern footballs are also designed and manufactured using very specific regulations. 

The official football provider of the National Football League (NFL) games is Wilson Sporting Goods Company.  Wilson has been the main NFL football brand since 1941.  The name for the official NFL football is the “Duke”.  Each of these footballs is handmade in the city of Ada, Ohio.  Wilson is also the main provider of college football teams. 

Each NFL football measures between 20.75-21.25 inches around the girth, or belly, of the football.  College footballs measure just slightly smaller, about one inch smaller than the NFL footballs.  NFL footballs must weigh between 14-15 ounces, and college footballs coincidently weigh just slightly less, also.   

The football has evolved over the years and will probably continue to improve in the future.  Although the oval-shape will probably stay the same, companies are always trying to find better materials to use that will make footballs more resistant to wet conditions or to very cold temperatures.  The goal of the ideal football is to make it feel wonderful, right from the beginning of its use and be able to keep its shape and feel throughout the time that it is in play during a football game.