2012 NFL Draft Brings Football Production to New York City for First Time: Fan Take

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Football fans who are in New York City for the 2012 NFL Draft have a unique opportunity to see an integral part of the game--the actual football--being constructed right before their eyes. Wilson Sporting Goods Co.--the official provider of NFL footballs--has brought employees from its Ada, Ohio, football factory to Manhattan to manufacture official NFL footballs in New York City for the first time ever.

Wilson has been the official football of the NFL since 1941, making it one of the longest-lasting partnerships in sports history. Every single point ever scored in NFL history has been accomplished with a Wilson football.

The NFL's footballs are normally constructed at the Wilson Football Factory, the world's only factory dedicated entirely to the manufacture of footballs. Located in the Village of Ada, Ohio--home to about 3,500 residents--120 Wilson employees handcraft about 3,000 footballs each day, or about 700,000 footballs per year.

Now, for the first time ever, fans in New York City will be able to watch these handmade footballs being created. Fans can check out this fascinating process at the NFL Shop at Draft store, which is the NFL's first-ever pop-up store. The store is located at 1095 Avenue of the Americas at 41st and 42nd Streets and will be open through April 30 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, seven days a week.

"Our team takes great pride in producing each football used in every NFL game," said Dan Riegle, Wilson Factory manager, through a press release provided by Wilson representative Matt Braun. "We could not be more proud to have this opportunity to take a piece of football history to the biggest city in the United States, where we'll demonstrate the skill and craftsmanship that go into the making of the NFL game ball."

I live in central Indiana, so when Super Bowl XLVI came to Indianapolis, I enjoyed the NFL Experience in Super Bowl Village. While I was there, I stopped at the Wilson display, watching and learning about how they make footballs. It was a really interesting experience that appealed to football fans of all ages.

As an avid football nut, I hadn't given much thought to how the actual footballs are created. I just assumed that they were mass-produced by machines in some huge factory somewhere overseas. But as it turns out, they're handcrafted by a real live person right here in the United States.

The process itself is really interesting, too. For example, Wilson footballs are made of cowhide, despite the frequent reference to footballs as "pigskin." About 10 footballs can be created from a single cowhide. And the laces on a football? That's actually one single lace.

Perhaps what New Yorkers will find most interesting about the Wilson football is its name--"The Duke." The Duke football is named for the late Wellington Mara, who spent 81 years of his life with the New York Giants and the NFL. It's a neat story that you'll hear at the NFL Shop at Draft.

Fans will also have the opportunity to purchase a customized Wilson football that can include your own name, signature, favorite team logo, and more on it. There will also be a variety of NFL regular season game balls, Super Bowl footballs, and commemorative NFL Draft footballs available for purchase at the NFL Shop at Draft.

"Wilson has been a part of the NFL family for over 70 years, and we take pride in the role we play in the game of football," said Kevin Murphy, Wilson General Manager of Football, through the company's press release. "We look forward to showcasing our legacy and tradition with NFL fans during Draft Week."

So if you're in the Big Apple for the 2012 NFL Draft this week, I highly recommend a trip to the NFL Shop at Draft to witness the handcrafting of the official NFL football by Wilson. It'll be well worth your time.

The author is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.

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