Football has evolved since it was first introduced in the early 1900s. A common misconception is that it’s made out of “pigskin,” a slang term. However, present-day footballs are now made of cowhide or vulcanized rubber, which is different from the earlier days of pigskin.
Let’s learn more about the history of football and how it’s evolved.
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What Is a Football Made Of?
The earliest form of football was made out of pig bladders. They were easy to get a hold of and inflate. People started to cover the pig bladder with leather to form a ball that somewhat resembled what we know today.
When rubber was first mass manufactured in the 1800s, footballs were made primarily of rubber. The rubber football would then be covered in leather (much like the original) to ensure a better grip as the forward pass evolved.
The football measures a foot long (12”) and is shaped in a sphere. As mentioned above, as the forward pass started to evolve, so did the football. It was initially more rounded (much like a rugby ball) but was reduced in size and shape to what we have today.
From Popular Mechanics :
In 1920, 28 years after William “Pudge” Heffelfinger became the first professional football player, the American Professional Football Association was formed, and the Spalding J5-V was named the official ball of the league. In 1922, the league was renamed the National Football League. And, in the 1930s, the Spalding J5-V began to be known as “The Duke,” which was the boyhood nickname of Wellington Mara, owner of the New York Giants.
In 1935, the NFL shortened the ball’s short axis to between 21-1/4 and 21-1/2 in. The ball’s length was shortened that year to between 11 and 11-1/4 in., and the amount of air that it could hold was set at 12.5 to 13.5 psi. Its long axis of 28 to 28-1/2 in., however, did not change. These dimensions remain today, as does the ball’s shape, which has been called a “prolate spheroid” since 1890.
Here is a great video to show how it’s made:
How The Football Is Made
The football size and dimensions have become a critical part of how the game has advanced. The smaller shape – great pocket passers were born, which continue to push the ball downfield today.
As shown in the video above, footballs are seamed, stitched, and softened inside out. A worker will then flip the ball inside out using their hands before filling it with a polyurethane bladder.
The footballs are then laced and re-heated to take the proper shape.
How Much Does a Football Weigh?
It depends on which football you’re playing. Football sizes get bigger as players go from youth to the pros. This is different from other sports, in which the main ball in play remains the same size regardless of age. Examples include:
As mentioned, football is a unique sport because the football must fit the hand size of the group using it. To ask a youth athlete to push a pro football downfield is unrealistic.
Here’s a list of the most popular size footballs:
Youth Football Size
Weight: 10 ounces
Long Circumference: 24 inches
Short Circumference: 17.5 inches
Youth football is awkward to the standard adult, as the laces stick out more than a regular football. This type of football gives the youth a chance to grip and throw the football effectively.
Middle School Football Size
Weight: 12.5 ounces
Long Circumference: 26.25 inches
Short Circumference: 19.25 inches
Middle school footballs are slightly bigger than youth footballs. They’re a bit longer and have less girth than a traditional college or NFL football.
High School & College Football Size
Weight: 14-15 Ounces
Long Circumference: 27.75 to 28.5 inches
Short Circumference: 20.75 to 21.125 inches
High School and college footballs share the same weight and circumference. The transition for a quarterback, center, running back, or receiver going from high school football to college football is seamless because of these specifications.
Weight: 14-15 Ounces
Long Circumference: 28 inches
Short Circumference: 21.5 inches
The NFL football is the king of all footballs. Its official maker (Wilson ) has been making NFL footballs for 75 years. The ball is slightly bigger than college football—however no drastic difference.
The NFL ball-making process is interesting.
Wilson, founded in 1913, has a manufacturing plant in Ada, Ohio, where it manufactures every football. Wilson currently staffs over 120 employees who help make 4,000 footballs a day!
The leather of the ball is originally cut, shaped, then stamped with the company’s logo. The leather is then stitched together at the seams and
Laces of the football were originally used to seal the pig bladder that was encased inside the football. In today’s footballs, the laces are used for the quarterback to gain a grip and ultimately spin the ball down the field.
The NFL football made and influenced all footballs around the world.
Footballs Get Bigger As Players Get Older
If a youth athlete were trying to throw an NFL football that weighs 15 ounces, they would need two hands. The ball would go roughly 5 yards from the limited amount of force behind it.
Different youth organizations began to instill regulations on which size football should be used based on the hand size and the ability to throw the ball downfield for each level.
Do you have any questions about football? Do you think the NFL should use a bigger (or a smaller ball)? Should the ball be regulated to one size? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
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