How to Make a Football by Hand: The LEATHER HEAD SPORTS Football Giveaway

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 8, 2010 · 342 comments

in Blog


Editor’s note: There are few things more manly than the independent craftsman. The Art of Manliness would like to support the independent craftsmen out there by featuring from time to time a man who makes a living working with his hands. Today we spotlight Paul Cunningham, the owner of and master craftsman at LEATHER HEAD SPORTS where he makes handsome, handmade footballs and baseballs. Paul gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how he makes his footballs and has donated one of his footballs to be given away to an AoM reader. For a chance to win, see below for details.
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Football is a manly sport. Leatherwork is manly craft.  When you put them together, is there anything more manly?

As the long time Photo Editor for Major League Baseball, I had one of the best gigs in America: looking at baseball photos all day, while working with some amazing photographers, editors and designers.  It was a terrific job, which took me to the World Series every year.

Then, I resigned.  MLB is a special place to work, so when the shine wore off, I knew it was time to move on.

Moving on meant engaging my passions for craftsmanship and sports.  As my days at MLB waned, I began designing and making handsome leather goods. Once I resigned, I was ready to bring my designs to market.

Most footballs today are made cheaply in Asia.  To its credit, Wilson still has a factory in Ada, Ohio where all NFL footballs are made by American hands.  But Wilson is a huge multi-national corporation, and they won’t teach you how to make a football.  I had to figure it out for myself, and I thought it would be fun to share what I’ve learned.

Design

A football is made from four panels sewn together inside out.  Two of the panels are punched with holes to accommodate the laces.  Once the shell of the ball is assembled, it is inverted, filled with a rubber bladder, laced, and finally inflated.

Official NFL footballs are made for guys with really big hands.  Most men struggle to grip and throw an official size football.  I was inspired by the need for a football that would fit my hand, and it had to look old school cool.

Leather Selection

A stack of leather waiting to be turned into LEATHER HEAD footballs. It is indeed an honored cow, whose hide is chosen for such a high calling.

Once upon a time there were hundreds, even thousands of tanneries in America.  Environmental concerns and foreign competition drove most out of business.  The few that remain do a terrific job of producing a wide range of leather styles.  I visited one of the remaining tanneries in America and spent the day looking at leather samples.  I was looking for leather with very specific characteristics:  Brown in color, thick, firm temper, full grain, textured, etc.  Ultimately I wanted leather that would make a beautiful, tough, gripable ball.

After buying and testing many different sides of leather, I finally settled on one that was just about perfect.

A common concern about LEATHER HEAD footballs is their gripability.  An NFL ball is made from leather that has a rough texture embossed onto the surface.  For LEATHER HEAD footballs, I chose leather that has a light texture, but is also fairly oily.  The oil, rather than make the ball slippery, actually enhances the ball’s gripability.  Also, because LEATHER HEAD footballs are designed for average size hands, they are inherently more gripable than an official size ball.

Components

This picture shows all the components of a LEATHER HEAD football

A LEATHER HEAD football is made from the following components:

  • 4 leather panels
  • 4 liners
  • Lace hole reinforcements
  • Polyester thread
  • Bladder guard
  • Rubber bladder
  • Rawhide lace

Construction/Tools

Here are the step-by-step instructions for making a football.

Step 1. Lay a side of leather on your workbench and closely position four panel patterns on it.  With a sharp utility knife, cut the leather around the patterns.

Step 2. Transfer the leather to your die press.  Carefully position your cutting die on the leather and punch out each panel.

A cutting die is positioned on a piece of leather. Each panel is exactly the same shape.

Freshly cut football panels await the next step in the construction process at the LEATHER HEAD football factory.

Step 3. Sew a liner into the flesh side of each panel.

Step 4. Return two of the panels to the die press and with a special die, cut out the lace holes.

Step 5. Punch out a hole for the air valve.

Step 6. Brand your logo onto the ball.

With a special jig and branding iron, A logo is burned into each LEATHER HEAD football.

Step 7. Sew the bottom panels together.

Step 8. Sew the lace hole reinforcements and bladder guard in place.

Step 9. Sew the top panels together.

Step 10. Invert the bottom panels and insert into the top panels.

Step 11. Sew bottom and top panels together.

With a heavy duty industrial sewing machine, A football is sewn together.

Footballs are assembled inside out. Here is a fresh batch ready to be inverted.

Step 12. With a stout stick, and strong muscles, invert the ball so that it is right side out.

A LEATHER HEAD football in the process of being inverted.

Step 13. Insert a new rubber bladder, position the bladder guard, and partially inflate the ball.

Step 14. Lace the ball closed; trim the excess lace.

Lacing a LEATHER HEAD football.

Step 15. Fully inflate the ball and admire your work.

Conclusion

The world is teeming with an over abundance of cheap, massed produced junk.  Lately though, a craft movement has emerged to counter this.  It is a movement that attaches greater value to American made goods, often made on a small scale.  It can be seen in a wide range of enterprises, including locavore restaurants and pop up shops.  It also extends to many large brands like LL Bean who are now trumpeting their heritage products.  One of the best examples of this movement is the success of Etsy, a web-site marketplace for handmade and vintage items.

We now live in an internet enabled world that makes commerce available to everyone with an idea and a little gumption. If you have a passion, by all means, engage it.  You never know where it will lead you.

A completed LEATHER HEAD football.

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The LEATHER HEAD Sports Handsome Dan Football Giveaway


If you’d like to get your hands on one of these handcrafted footballs from LEATHER HEAD SPORTS, here’s your chance. Paul has agreed to give away one of his Handsome Dan Footballs to a lucky AoM reader. The beautiful fall weather provides the perfect opportunity to toss the pigskin (well, cowskin) around with friends and family, and this football will make you the envy of your peers.

How to Enter the Giveaway

Leave a comment sharing your favorite football-related memory.

We’ll randomly select one comment and that man will win a handmade Handsome Dan Football from LEATHER HEAD SPORTS.

The deadline to enter is Monday, November 15, 2010 at 10:00 CST.


1 Robert November 8, 2010 at 9:08 pm

This was an awesome find.

2 Carney November 8, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Being a Boy Scout I couldnt play on the high school football team because of the time commitment. However my best friend was our star quarterback. Before his last game he and I went fishing and spent the day goofing off which including throwing the football at his house to work out the kinks in his arm before the biggest and last game in high school. I joined the navy and he went to college. Those were good days.

3 Shane November 8, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Playing football when I was younger until it got dark with my dad and brothers… man how I miss those days. I cherish the memories.

4 Alok Singh November 8, 2010 at 9:11 pm

My favorite memory is from when my best friend showed me how to play, and then both of our families got in a huge football game which I ended up winning by jumping over my uncle and making a touchdown. Ah, good times.

5 Colt Smith November 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Growing up in a small town there was not always a lot to do so my friends and I would play football in the local supermarket parking lot late at night. One night the bike police broke up our game and sent us home, as we were leaving I yelled at the top of my lungs about well now that our wholesome sport is over we have nothing left to do but go home and do drugs. While funny then I am sort of amazed we didn’t all get maced.

6 Joshua M November 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm

When i was knee-high to a grasshopper my da was showing me how to throw a football. It was a big pro ball and I remember I couldn’t even grasp it right. Well instead of throwing it, I kicked it. When my da tried to catch it, it bounced just right into his balls. Now as a child I couldn’t help but laugh. Nowadays seeing as that has happened to me on occasion, when I think of that memory I can’t help but cringe a little bit.

7 Colton Rawlings November 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm

My best memories are going to University of Utah football games with my father. Didnt matter that the weather was horrible, just spending the time with him is what it all was about.

Now the time is coming close for me to continue the tradition with my boys….

8 KT November 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm

After my grandfather passed away last year, we went about cleaning out his house and came upon a bunch of stuff from when he did promotional work with the NY Giants: some autographed footballs and a jersey, but most special to me, a photo album full of pictures that showed the pure joy he had in his job. The day of his wake was a Giants game, so we DVR’ed it and all the cousins went back to watch it afterward. They ended up losing the game on a late drive, but we all remembered grandpa with the Giants.

I’ll also never forget my dad and I jumping up and down for joy in each other’s arms when Plaxico Burress pulled down that TD pass to knock off the Pats and win the Super Bowl a few years back. I have the picture from SI of David Tyree’s catch hanging up in my dorm room and always think back to that memory when I glance up and see it.

9 Tim E. November 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I remember bumping shoulders with my cousins in the stands at WVU football games every year since I was 7, almost 20 years now. That first game is one of my most vivid childhood memories. Since then we have attended at least one game a year and some of us have been season ticket holders for many seasons. I like the nasty cold december games the best, separates the men from…well you know.

10 Scott November 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm

During my freshman year at Georiga Tech we had our homecoming game against Virginia Tech, which was some of our stiffest ACC competition. After a very tense game that went to overtime we finally pulled through and won. The stadium’s atmosphere was electric, and it felt amazing to hop the fence and rush the field with the rest of the elated GaTech fans.

11 Don Wojtaszek November 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Take’s me back to the days playing touch football with the neighborhood boy’s in the street. No, it hardly had any traffic. And we sure had a lot fun.

Don Wojtaszek

12 Elijah Landen November 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm

If I had known how much I loved football when I was younger I would’ve tried out for a team in high school, and my life might have been a lot different. Considering my lovely wife and a great relationship with my nephew I couldn’t dream of changing a thing.

13 Scott Fitzgerald November 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm

To me football has always been about the entire community getting together to support our team. Growing up in Nebraska, supporting the Cornhuskers is what you do. The NFL definitely comes is a distant second to college football here. I grew up near Lincoln and even though we rarely has tickets it seems we always had to get haircuts downtown near the stadium on the mornings of home games. I think the old man was really just looking for a reason to get us near the energy. The sea of red in downtown Lincoln is an amazing sight. Now I have a son who is 5 and even though it will be a few years before he attends a Huskers game he knows that on Saturday he wears red and cheers on the team!

14 Justin November 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Playing with my friends from around the neighborhood during the fall. Although, all we had was an old Oakland Raiders football, nothing this nice!

15 Henry November 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Unfortunately I mostly missed out on playing football as a kid. There is one notable exception though. On Thanksgiving the year I was eight (or maybe seven) my uncle came to visit and he and I threw a football back and forth for what seems now like hours. What a great time we had.

16 Wayne H Drake November 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm

My favorite memory is just the simple back yard game played with friends and family. We have a long tradition of thanksgiving day games with all the cousins. I would love to incoporate one of these balls into our games!

17 Keith Stover November 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm

My first baseball game. Seeing the Cubs at Busch. I was with friends so i didn’t mind being at the nemesis’ field. Its not a bad stadium, could use more blue though. Cubs lost, but an awesome experience.

18 Cameron Albert November 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I’ll never forget my uncle who was such a huge influence on my love of sports. He played almost every sport in high school and took me to a lot of football and baseball games. My mom learned everything she knows about sports from him. We lost him this February and we miss him every day.

19 Kevin November 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm

In my neighborhood we used to always gather a couple hours before dusk to play some pickup football. We would play in an unlined field in the middle of the park. We marked the end zone and the yard lines with the scraggly trees that ringed the field. As we got older, tackle became touch, and eventually we all went separate directions for collage. We still met back up to play some epic Thanksgiving Day games. I’ve since moved away, but the memories of the sweat and sometimes blood that poured out on the uneven, ragged field are the best of my childhood!

20 Rob November 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Is this even hard? Okay. it’s WAY hard. But I’ll go with a recent memory. As some of you may, perhaps, be aware, the last three years have been tough ones for Wolverine fans. Last year, when we beat Notre Dame with a last second leap by Forcier into the endzone not fifty feet from where I sat, well, that was a good game. However, not three days ago was an epic game. Granted, the Illini may not be the best team in the Big Ten right now (that honour unfortunately belongs to our younger brother), but watching a basketball game go back and forth for three hours to a tie was amazing. Then overtime, back and forth. Until we scored a conversion, and then blocked the Illini in the same feat. And all the while, I was in the heart of the student section on the fifth yard line not a dozen rows back from the band. When that tackle went down, I thought I was going to go deaf. And never have I seen everyone stick around to sing the Victors after the game. Not just the student section, but even the far corner. Go Blue!
- R

21 Chris November 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm

The best time I had with football was playing on friday nights, nothing else mattered it was all about the game. Once I got to college it became too much like a business and I lost the love of the sport. Luckily a few years away from it all lets you forget a lot of the bad things.

22 Chad November 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm

It was watching my brother-in-law play on his, then, high school team. It was one of the best games I have ever seen to this day and rekindled the love of the game for me. It was just pure and fun and joyful…and we won.

23 Zach November 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm

After school, we used to play two hand touch in my friend Steve’s backyard. Sometimes it would evolve into full contact, and get pretty violent. One time, I remember one kid getting tackled pretty hard, and he stood up gripping his neck, screaming, “You ripped my mole off of my neck!!”

24 justin November 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Running onto the field at the Tacoma Dome my junior here during the high school playoffs. I didn’t play and we lost, but there was something very cool about getting to travel and being out on the field prior to the game.

25 Jay November 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Does flag football count? I had one of the best times I’ve had in a while yesterday afternoon playing with some of the teens from my church after a picnic we had at a local park. We played the “old” guys vs. high schoolers. We won, but boy, am I sore today!

26 Ryan Adams November 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I started at linebacker my senior year of high school. The first game of the year, we got shellacked 28-0. A lot of people said that would be the norm and that we wouldn’t be very good. The next game, I picked up a fumble in the third quarter and ran it in for a touchdown. Eventually, I was elected as a captain and we won the state championship. Some of my fondest friends and memories come from the grueling hours, days, and years that we put into being a great team and having fun.

27 EC November 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Watching football on Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite football-related activities.

28 Dan November 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm

I remember watching every single football game in highschool, not from the bench, but from the stands with my drumsticks in hand. Rain, snow, it never mattered – the marching band was always there. :)

29 Gavin November 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm

My “favourite” football moment, ironically, was one of failure. I went out for the team in highschool with very little football experience, and the coach didn’t see the need to help me learn so while I was physically able I didn’t have any of the skills or familiarity necessary. No surprise I got cut, and for many years I didn’t think much of football.

That failure has always stuck with me though… it was one of the few things I wanted that I didn’t get in high school, and it drove me to work harder on things I was trying to be good at — research, prepare, practice, and ask for help when I needed it. I ended up making the under-18 rugby city all-star team, and years later grew back into a love of football, became a huge Steelers fan, rec league player and occasional student coach.

30 Brandon H. November 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm

My father died when I was 9 and for the entirety of my life up until his death he was undergoing treatment for cancer. My father was a physical outdoorsman who climbed mountains around the world before settling down. One of the only physical skills he was ever able to pass on to me was the proper way to hold and throw a football. I’ve fallen out of practice because, like the author of the article, my hands are not large enough to grip a regulation football properly. Regardless I still remember my father’s lesson on proper grip and form.

31 Tim November 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Sandlot football as a kid.

32 Eric Dean Jones November 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Going to the park with every kind of ball imaginable… baseballs, footballs, soccer balls, kick-balls… those were the days.

33 Alton Higgins November 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Growing up it seemed like we played football in our big yard every weekend. My friends and I were big fans of Johnny Unitas and the Colts, and when they lost Super Bowl III we could hardly believe it. We got mad at the Jets and Namath and global injustice in general, and we ran outside and played football, more to forget the game than to have fun.

34 micah j. November 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm

absolutely love playing backyard football with my 4 brothers and dad every thanksgiving. it keeps getting better every time – now we’ve added our wives!

35 Stacy November 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm

It’s true what they say. My fondest memories as a football player were the times spent off the field. A team isn’t just a collection of players. It’s a group of guys that trust one another. We learned how to be a team during practice, two-a-days at camp, weight lifting long after the school had closed. The time spent bonding with my teammates means more to me than any game. Besides, I was an offensive lineman. It wasn’t like I was putting up major stats every game.

36 Tod November 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I remember when i was about 6, my dad taught me how to throw a spiral. I remember being so excited to show everyone how i could throw. The first person other than my dad that I showed my new talent was my grandfather. I remember going to his house one day with my football; i showed him and he smiled at me and told me how great it was, we played catch for about an hour. He never got tired of playing with me. That was about 14 years ago, and to this day, every thanksgiving, he still plays catch with the rest of the men in our family. Its one of my greatest life memories.

37 Kenny November 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I played when I was younger, but didn’t understand the game. I sure wish I had stuck with it and been patient enough to learn the strategy. Patience is a virtue and I was a pretty unvirtuous 12 year old!

38 Joshua Collier November 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Playing a friendly game of flag football with friends in youth group was always a highlight.

39 Travis November 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm

When I was in high school and part of the NJROTC program, we would play football every other week for physical training. The first time we played my Junior year, it was Freshmen against everyone else, and I don’t think my friend could say it any better, “You’d think the losing team was going to be executed; those freshmen were playing so hard!”

40 Michael moody November 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I remember highschool football pickup games. One time we played in the mud and rain. One kid grabbed a handoff and got tackled pretty hard. He grabbed his ankle started moaning. A couple of us gave him advice: ‘get up and walk on it’, ‘massage it for a while’ or even ‘quit crying and give me the ball’. We found out the next day when he wasn’t at school that he had broken it. I miss those days!

41 Josh W November 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm

My favorite football memory is of going to the Rose Bowl with my dad when i was a kid.

42 SM November 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Football, family, and friends — pick any Thanksgiving of my youth and I’m speechless as I drift away in silent reverie.

43 Jake S. November 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Out on the back lawn, playing a pickup game with some high-school friends. I remember the slickness of the grass made playing intense, and for a that game we were playing full contact. Got a couple good hits in…

44 Phil November 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm

This contest has come at the perfect time for me. I am 22 and about to play (potentially) my last collegiate football game as captain and starting center for Hillsdale College. My greatest memory came from last season. The school I play for is a small NCAA division 2 college and we had scheduled the perennial power-house, which was ranked #1 and hadn’t lost a regular season game in over 3 years, for our homecoming. We were a good team and new we stood a chance. The game was a 60 minute, emotional roller coaster, brawl. The game went back and forth until we had taken the lead in the 4th quarter, 27-24. Their team was an offensive machine and they had the ball with plenty of time left. I paced back and forth a nervous wreck while our defense was out there holding them at bay while they drove to about our 25 yard line. They sent out their field goal unit to tie the game. The kick was wide right and our stands emptied onto the field. Our 27-24 victory lead to our school’s first ever NCAA D2 playoff berth and victory (my second favorite memory). I will never forget how that felt for as long as I live.

45 Patrick November 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm

A lot of throwin the football growing up. Playing in the neighborhood with all the guys I grew up with. Of course I was/am a pansy, so I was always getting hurt and leaving the games…

46 Jacob Choi November 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm

In sixth grade, i was playing some tag football during lunch time with my friends. I went long and caught an awesome pass, although it was probably wobbling through the air. Well I caught it, turned around and ran face first into my crush. We smashed heads. She never talked to me again.

47 STW November 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm

One favorite is a bit tough. Certain catches or tackles or games all can feel just like yesterday and meld into a nice whole.

48 Dan November 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I was the band during my high school years, I remember sitting in the stands regardless of the weather, blazing heat of August, raining september nights, snow on thanksgiving and it being so cold that your valves would freeze solid. A lot of memories were made during that time

49 Hans November 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

The best moment would have to be when in the BC Lions and Rough Rider’s game- the opener of a new season a few years back, the lions had the riders in a pinch- last 24 second of the game and they were 5 meters from the end. the Riders obtained possession and ran the entire way back across the field to win the game.

50 Jason November 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Catching a pass to complete a successful two point conversion during a seventh grade football game was the highlight of my middle school football career. I can remember the ball being thrown a little short and having to reach over a member of the defense in order to catch the ball. My teammates had a good laugh as I celebrated with maybe a bit too much enthusiasm for two points.

51 Matt'sDad November 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I recall many Sunday’s watching the Fran Tarkenton and the Vikes with my Dad and his friends, but my best times have been watching the NFL and playing backyard football with my son. Now we play Fantasy Football, and love the week-end we go head-to-head.

52 Tom November 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I was the high school mascot during football season, we were the Chargers, meaning I dressed as a horse. The ears were a little long though, and the costume looked more like a donkey than a stallion. My favorite high school football moment was when I told the coach that “wow, now that I’m out here you’re not the biggest jackass on the field anymore!”

53 Jack Roberts November 8, 2010 at 10:32 pm

My favorite football memory is playing with the guys in the neighborhood. The driveways of two adjacent houses were our endzones, but as we grew older, we skipped a house and expanded our field by a driveway.

54 Kyle E November 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm

When I was a kid, my brother and I, along with some neighborhood kids, would set up goal lines through our backyard and on into our neighbors yards for afternoons full of football fun. My wife and I are now expecting our first child, and whether it’s a boy or a girl, you can bet that I’ll, again, be in the back yard, playing football with my kid.

55 Chad Bailey November 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm

For me, Thanksgiving is synonymous with football. Every year before dinner, all of the men in my family go out in grandpa’s yard and through the pigskin (or appearently, cowskin) around, and like Al Bundy and Uncle Rico

56 Bill November 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I didn’t begin to love football until college. As soon as I got to Wisconsin, I was at every home game, front row, usually stripped to the waist and painted red and white. Best game was watching Wisconsin beat Ohio State 17-10 in the freezing cold rain, rushing onto the field afterward. Took a very warm woman to help me thaw from that night, but it was an incredible game.

57 Paul November 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm

When I was a young boy – maybe second grade – I was outside tossing the football around with my father. He had an official NFL that I could barely hang on to but I thought it was the coolest thing playing with the exact same ball the NFL guys used. I remember my mother coming outside and yelling for me. I turned to look at her – just as my father was about to release the ball – and before I knew it I had a nice deep pebble grain embedded on my face.

Now that I am a father myself – 4 year old daughter and 19 month old son – I will have the chance to take them outside and teach them how to properly throw a nice tight spiral. Hopefully I can avoid smacking my son with the ball but if/when it happens he wo’t have that goofy pebble grain all over his cheek!

Great find, cool article, and great looking footballs. I love the fact that the branding is so understated.

58 Dan November 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Playing in Souris PEI when a nice day at halftime had three inches of snow down by the end of the game. I remember leaning down to snap the ball on third an inches late in the fourth and everything felt like it was in slow motion.

59 Jason P November 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

A football, several cousins around my age, and red mud corn field always meant good times, until we had to go home and our parents saw the muddy mess.

60 Samuel Clarke November 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm

People always talk about the smell of a baseball glove….for me that wasn’t it…the smell of a well worn leather football brings back so many memories. When I received my first one as a kid I would sleep with that thing. Eventually it split, bladder hanging out and everything and my mom tossed it out. About 12 years ago I got an authentic NFL ball and as soon as I got it…yup I smelled it. Last year was my last season playing at age 41 with a messed up rotator and pins and plates in my leg. My NFL ball burnt in a recent fire. I would love to have a handcrafted ball not only to smell and bring back that flood of memories…but to toss around…and then respectfully place it on the mantle until next time.

61 Kevin November 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I have vivid memories of spending everyday of a winter break (save for Christmas Day) playing football in the school yard behind our house. I was in fifth grade. There were between eight to 10 of us everyday. Just enough of us for each team to have a quarterback and three or four of us to “go long” on just about every play. It’s a wonder where all that energy came from. The fence was one endzone and the hill the other. Our field was at least 120 yards long. Two completions for a first down. Classic pick up games.

62 Jean Dupuch November 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Favourite memory: either my first interception in high school ball or winning my team’s “hammer” award for making huge hits all game on running backs twice my size.

63 Shane November 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm

My favorite football moment was my senior year of college where I got to watch Michael Crabtree score in the final seconds of the Texas Tech vs. University of Texas game to win the game…. As a long time Texas Tech fan beating UT is one of the best things that can happen… Wreck’Em Tech

64 Andrew R November 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm

I’m the oldest of four boys (now twenty years old) and back when I still lived at home year round my brothers and I would play what we called the “wide receiver game” just about every night. 1 brother was the quarterback, 1 the wideout, 1 the DB and the last a linebacker. We would rotate positions after each play. A catch was worth 2 points for the QB and the wideout, a sack was 2 points and a deflection was a point. We used to play for an hour or so, get annoyed with each other, fight it out, go complain to our parents (yeah, I know… lame, eh?) and then go back out into the front yard and play again. Sometimes we’d fight and play again as many as three or four times in one evening… which I suppose is why our mom hated the game so much!

65 Joshua R November 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm

When I was in highschool there was a thing called the Powder Puff League. It was when the girls played football and the boys put on chearleading outfits and rallied them on. So my friend ana was 85 pounds soaking wet. But she played rugby and took martial arts. The whole game I was dlighted to watch her take down other girls 2x her size with ease because of how well she understood center of gravity. Then at the end, she took down one of the real football teams start QB’s just to show off. She got a standing ovation.

66 Chris H November 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I was 10 years old, on the city team for my small town in Iowa. Unlike the rest of the team, I was not a beefy, corn-fed farm kid. Smaller parents, and a fondness for reading made me quite the oddity. But I was a warm body, so the coach was glad to have me. He said I was the best safety he’d ever seen. Turns out a sharp mind is useful in football, particularly flag football. But this wasn’t sissy flag football. Sure, you didn’t actually tackle the other team, but all the other physical elements were there, particularly the rough blocks.

My particular memory was towards the end of the season, we were playing the town that usually won in baseball. Same kids, just a different sport. It was pouring down rain, and probably 45 degrees. The opening kickoff, and I found myself lined up against the cocky, completely irritating, rude, unsportsmanlike star pitcher of the other team. The kick was up, tumbling beautifully. Our speedy receiver took it, and sped down the field. I made a beeline for my man. He gave me a brash smirk for a second, then realized I wasn’t stopping, and his look transformed into panic as I plowed into him, knocking him to the mud. It felt so good, and we went on to win that game, and all the other games, and then the championship. I acquired my skill, and love of the game there, and it has served me well, and given me a lot of pleasure since then.

67 Aaron Garrett November 8, 2010 at 10:54 pm

I cannot say that I have ever been a person that has enjoyed football much, and when catch was ever played it was always with baseballs, but I do remember one particular winter break where my brother and I (he was five years my senior and much more athletically gifted than I, so any time with him was a treat) spent many hours playing a form of football in the front yard.

68 Robert Lehardy November 8, 2010 at 10:57 pm

My grandfather attended the 1958 Championship game, the Baltimore Colts vs the New York Giants, and as a retirement gift, he received a ball signed by all of the Colts players. Perhaps the greatest game ever played. Unitas, Raymond Berry, Alan Ameche, Art Donovan – what a tremendous group of players.

69 Chris C. November 8, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Camping! With two brothers really close in age, the first thing we would do when we got to our campsite is look for the nearest field and toss around a football. After sitting in the car for hours on end, football was the ultimate “stretch your legs” activity. Since you are at it, why not toss around a mighty handsome football like a Leather Head. It will definitely last for for my future kids and probably their kids too!

70 Chad Bailey November 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm

For me, Thanksgiving is synonymous with football. Every year before dinner, the men of my family step into the crisp Fall air of my grandpa’s yard and throw the ol’ pigskin (or, appearently, cowskin) around. We re-live our glory days on the field, and sometimes our old injuries as well. It’s amazing how you can still enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with a bloody nose, and a jammed finger.

71 stephen roche November 8, 2010 at 11:02 pm

i want play football with nice man hand sewn football that size good for hands and supple on the deposition of ball in hands if there is one thing i was is ball pictured in above i love play football as boy now i no have money for play football to buy football

72 Larry November 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm

The first pro game my dad and I every went to: Detroit Lions and New York Jets at the Pontiac Silverdome around 1982 or 1983. My next pro game I ever went to was the Tennessee Titans and the Atlanta Falcons the year that the Titans went to the Superbowl and came up a yard short against the Rams. Since then there have been countless high school games that I have attended with my two young daughters ages 5 and 2. Still trying to figure out which I prefer, high school or pro. Tough choice.

73 Sam B November 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Growing up, every Sunday my family would come home from church, pick up a couple dozen buffalo wings, and sit down to watch the Redskins game. Now that I’m at school, I really miss those days.

74 Perry November 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Tailgating before the game and throwing the football around will always be my favorite football memories.

75 Nod November 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm

During a pick up game at college my “uniform” consisted of jeans and a rugby shirt. On the kickoff I was able to upend a guy running at full speed with a drop block (nobody wore pads) who out-massed me 2-to-1. He went head over heels. Not exactly a textbook move, but hey, he was a LOT bigger than me, and it was superbly effective.

76 Bill November 8, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Favorite football memory is definitely playing a game we called offense-defense. Dad was QB while me and my step-brother were WR and DB playing against each other. The yard was too small, but we made it work… or else we’d just play in the street.

77 Oswaldo November 8, 2010 at 11:29 pm

One of the memories has to be the countless times I tossed the ball with my old man while I was a kid. He taught me patiently and we played long hours alongside my little brother.

78 Sean November 8, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Someone broke into our garage the other week and stole, among other things, the football I had just got one of my sons. I was about to get him another one but he fractured a bone and can’t play outside for a few weeks. This hand made football would make him so happy on several fronts.

79 Jack Saddleback November 8, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Watching the Calgary Stampeders VS the Saskatchewan Roughriders with my two Nephews as we cheered for the Stamps win by barely two points! Fireworks exploded all around us as the Calgary stadium erupted in a mad frenzy of excitement over the win!!

80 Stromie November 8, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Playing in the yard with my dad and brother all the time….awesome

81 David Baker November 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm

When the Chicago Bears played the one season at Memorial Stadium in Champaign my brothers and I had tickets to the opening day game against the Vikings. It was chaos, they let a bunch of folks in the wrong gates and hordes of people, including us, were blocking other peoples views as we were being led to our seats.

At one point they led a large group on field level to cut to another gate. My brothers and I slipped away from the group and were able to watch most of the game standing behind photographers behind the end zone.

82 Nick Estelle November 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm

As a kid I wasn’t cut out for football. I was small, scared, and unable to concentrate enough to learn the plays. But it didn’t stop me from wanting to play.
My dad warned me that it would be tough, and that if I insisted on playing, then I was going to be at every game and every practice, and there would be no quitting.
I was terrible, but thanks to my dad I learned dedication, and not to make hasty decisions.

83 W. November 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I remember one Christmas our family went to visit family in California. My younger brother got a new football and I got the mumps. I spent my vacation watching my brother play with the foot ball……

84 Ryan November 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm

My favorite football memory was playing under the lights for 4 years in high school. My sophomore year I snatched an interception in the endzone against our rival and ran it back 40 yards (before getting stuck by the other team’s runningback at midfield).

85 Ben November 9, 2010 at 12:00 am

Watching the Raider’s home game in Oakland and fearing for my life.

86 Jeremy Klein November 9, 2010 at 12:02 am

We used to play as kids front yard of my brother’s friend. Baseball was always the sport of choice, but when it became cold and wet during the fall, we would always turn to football for a couple months. I was younger and always getting run over or the wind knocked out of me. We only played tackle as we thought that touch football was for girls. I never did very well, but I sure did have fun and made a lot of lasting memories.

After playing for a couple hours outside, we would all gather our football cards and trade with one another. At the time, Bo Jackson and Joe Montana were the hot players.

87 Michael Lewis November 9, 2010 at 12:04 am

I’ve never been able to catch very well, not having any depth perception is something of a handicap, but me and some friends would always be out on a Friday evening playing until we couldn’t see the ball anymore.

88 Adam November 9, 2010 at 12:08 am

My favorite football memory has yet to happen. This Thanksgiving my friends and I are getting together for a reunion. We all played together during high school, but life plans have taken us away from each other. We haven’t seen each other in a few years. We are all returning to our hometown to have thanksgiving with our families. But before we do, we’ll gather our families together to play a good old fashioned touch football game. A football like this is just what we need!

89 Dave November 9, 2010 at 12:12 am

I remember as a kid walking to the high school football games with my father. Smelling the Walnut trees as we walked a few miles and listening to the announcers voice get louder as we arrives at the field. We would always sit outside the stadium (My father was cheap) and sit on the grass hill and watch the game. Now I’m 43 and I cannot watch any football game without thinking of those cool Michigan nights watching football with dad.

90 Robert Lathrop November 9, 2010 at 12:13 am

I have been following my favorite football team the Oregon Ducks for a while now. A year ago my son started showing interest in the sport. He would sit with me watching the games and enjoying some bonding time with his Pops. I remember we were watching one particular game, him in his jersey and me in my team shirt, eating popcorn together. He actually was sitting on my shoulder like a parrot (he was only 4) and I thought to myself, does it get any better than this? Well they won so it does. Go DUCKS!!!

91 Gabe November 9, 2010 at 12:13 am

I was always too small to play football, so I wound up on the wrestling team. Football on Sunday and getting to eat a proper meal after a tournament was always the best part of the weekend.

92 Robert November 9, 2010 at 12:32 am

I remember last Thanksgiving playing a pick up game with my dad, brothers, and the neighbor dads and sons. We went over to the creek by our house and had a blast playing in the field. It wasn’t very competitive and none of us were very good but the simplicity of sharing time with the men of my family was something that I’ll remember every year. Family is something that needs to treasured in this day and age and if football is what brings you together, by all means, play!

93 Joe November 9, 2010 at 12:39 am

I decided to go to my high school’s homecoming game with some friends who were back in town (I graduated a few years ago). The team we were playing, at least when I was in school, was nothing to write home about. Much to our surprise, their game had improved tenfold from the last time any of us had seen them. They were pulling out all the stops! With interceptions, blocked field goals, and sacks to boot, our boys were getting frustrated and everyone in the stands could tell, but that only made us cheer harder for them. At halftime the score was tied at zero and we were stunned. Late in the third quarter the visitors made a touchdown, but our guys managed to block the extra point (we were still at zero). Time was winding down and soon the last quarter was upon us with a minute left to play, but we had the ball, but deep in their end of the field. The next two plays were absolutely incredible. Both were long passes, the first of which got us into our own territory. The second got us a touchdown! Ten seconds left on the clock and the kicker walked onto the field and once he got into position the crowd went dead silent. You could literally hear a pin drop. The ball was snapped and the kick was good! A 7-6 victory, no matter that it was by the skin of our teeth. It was without a doubt, the most exciting game I’ve seen in quite a while.

94 Milan November 9, 2010 at 12:43 am

Hey, I came from Europe so my football memories are only related with soccer. All Europe plays soccer and only few plays football. But I’m always ready to try something new….

95 Jordan Montreuil November 9, 2010 at 12:46 am

I moved to a new city when I was in fifth grade. I moved down the street from Ryan, Gene and Scott, a couple guys that were in my class. I was a bookish nerd that never played sports. Growing knowing my father only on alternating weekends, I was never exposed to sports. These guys, sports were all they played. To be friends with them was to play sports. They taught me all they knew about football and I took it all in. Of course we played baseball and basketball but football was the sport that I understood. Learning and playing football with them taught me what it meant to be a man, what it meant to embrace what was given me.

96 Andrew November 9, 2010 at 12:56 am

Trying to stay warm while sitting on the wooden bleachers of my high school football field watching my classmates and friends playing every friday night.

97 Jeff November 9, 2010 at 1:05 am

I remember the first college game that I attended. I was in high school, and we got invited by a UVA alum to come tailgate at one of the games. I remember walking around the campus thinking, “Cool. I could come here in a couple of years. Maybe.”

I also remember sneaking sips of bourbon and coke from those big orange cups.

Thank you, Mr. C.

98 Mike Solak November 9, 2010 at 1:27 am

My favorite football memory came when our varsity football team made a monumental comeback in the second half of a Regional Final game. We were down 35 to nothing at Half and ended up losing at the last few minutes by a final score of 42-38. One of the most heartbreaking moments for a young man to experience, but also one of the greatest life lessons about perseverance and never giving in, no matter how bleak things look.

99 Brian November 9, 2010 at 1:48 am

My dad was a ‘skins fan when I was growing up and so the ‘skins were my favorite team too. In recent years I’ve lost interest in the NFL and mostly watch college ball, but I’ll always remember throwing the ball with my best friend growing up. We threw, ran, and tackled each other in my backyard. It was just the two of us, but we played whole games in our imaginations. I was always Joe Thiesmann or John Riggins. I haven’t thought about this for years though. Thanks Brett for helping bring back some seriously great memories.

100 Ammon November 9, 2010 at 1:58 am

I remember going to see BYU play UCLA at the Rose Bowl as often as they played in LA growing up. It was always fun because it was the one time you’d see missionaries at a football game!

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