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.


201 James Santucci November 9, 2010 at 5:53 pm

These are some of the best looking footballs I’ve ever seen

202 John U November 9, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I remember racing home off the school bus to complete my chores and meet the other boys on the block to play tackle football in the soft grass of the neighbors front yard until she got home from work.

203 Matt P November 9, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Once a year my family would spring for Cowboys tickets at Texas Stadium. We almost didn’t go one year because they hadn’t been playing worth a flip for a long time, it had gotten to the point that they were getting booed at home. In fact that was how the game started as the Cowboys came onto the field the crowd let them know that their current record wasn’t up to snuff. It was a sad way for it to start, but they came out and played an awesome game, and winning the crowd back over to the point that by the 4th quarter, the other team couldn’t hear the audibles for the cheering for the Cowboys.
It’s one of my strongest football memories, and maybe the current season brings it to mind.

204 Ethan November 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Growing up in the North Woods of Michigan, the mecca of football for all kids (well, almost all) is Michigan Stadium. Despite not being an alum or being a native Michigander, my dad always made ends meet to get my brother and me to at least one Wolverine game a year. As fate would have it, my pilgrimage in the Fall of 1991, at 10 year-old, happened to be the day the hated Buckeyes rolled into Ann Arbor. As we settled into our end-zone seats the anticipation of battle was palpable, but none of us there that day were ready to be a part of college football lore. As the first half was coming to a close, the Michigan defense, already up 17-3, forced the Bucks to punt away. A high, booming punt sent Michigan’s speedy return man, an Ohio native no less, back to his own ten. There, seemingly in one motion, Desmond Howard snagged the ball, jabbed hard right and burst up the left sideline leaving a slew of Buckeyes in his wake. By the time Howard made his way to “our” end-zone my brother and I were already in full embrace watching the majesty of another OSU massacre unfold. Then, as if he hadn’t already done enough, Desmond stopped on a dime and struck the Heisman pose a mere twenty feet from us. In the years since, Desmond’s moment has been passed around the sports world via countless replays, pictures, articles and even video game covers. However, only a select few can say they were there the day Desmond Howard struck “The Pose,” and fewer still can say they know the moment they unequivocally fell in love in sports.

205 Joe Chandler November 9, 2010 at 6:58 pm

The first thing I can remember really wanting to practice was how to throw a football. My dad throws with beautiful, deliberate mechanics – and he tried to teach those mechanics to me and my four siblings, each in turn, once we were old enough to hold the ball. For me, this meant watching my three older siblings get better and better, until each one could release the ball with a perfect spiral. My younger brother and I would watch, get our turn with our dad, and then practice, practice, practice. Eventually this turned into family games on Thanksgiving – some of my most cherished memories. Its been years since we were all close enough to home to have the family football game on Thanksgiving, but whenever we are fortunate enough to get together, the football always comes out – and my dad still coaches us on that smooth throwing motion to this day.

206 Matt Jenner November 9, 2010 at 7:04 pm

This looks like a great ball. I wonder how well it holds up in a game.

207 M. E. Arnett November 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Favorite football memory was my first trip to Lambeau Field 12 years ago. Go Pack!

208 Corbin Wilcock November 9, 2010 at 7:44 pm

In my freshman year I didn’t know many people at my highschool because it was outside of my zone, or where I was supposed to attend schools. I went there for their football program. One of the first people I met was my friend Brodie, we were both trying out for QB. I ended up winning the starting job but we were terrible that year so he got to play QB in a few of our last games and I moved out to WR. Our last game of the season he had over one hundred yards passing, all of which were to me. We still remain great friends.

209 Joe November 9, 2010 at 8:17 pm

My best memory is me and my dad throwing the football around after he got home from work. He was tired, yet he still took the time to play with his son and spend quality time with him. Over the many years we played catch, he taught me so many lessons every man should know.

210 J.C. November 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

My favorite memory is playing in my back yard which was added to the neighbors on both sides and made for an almost 100 yard field. I was a pretty big kid so there was a rule that they could only handoff to me twice per game because I’d always run it in. It was a great time when kids could just play and go nuts with only occasional window-level supervision.

211 Jamie November 9, 2010 at 8:42 pm

I have played Canadian football since I was 10 years old.

My appreciation for a leather football is very large. people would use the synthetic balls thinking a football was just a football. These are the type of people who do not understand the difference of what quality makes.

Five reasons why leather footballs perform better than synthetic:

1. Leather is a porous material. On a warm day and with well moisturised hands, the natural oils on the palms of your hands created by the friction of catching the ball provides a superior tack than with wearing gloves. This is not possible with synthetic balls. As well as catching barehanded keeps your grip strength on the ball honest, as with gloves you become quickly complacent. catching barehanded is only beneficial with leather balls.

2. Synthetic balls have a terrible bladder. Reminiscent to a cheap basketball, when catching a synthetic ball, the bladder makes the ball very springy/bouncy and tends to make it hard to catch by wanting to bounce out of your hands more so than a leather ball with a quality bladder. Test it for yourself, catch a leather ball and catch a synthetic ball and notice the difference of ball reaction when you catch it.

3. leather footballs sail differently when thrown than synthetics. This is not so noticeable for throws on a line, but when thrown on a high arc, judgement of the balls trajectory is compromised because of the significant difference of ball dynamics.

4. A synthetic ball is heavier than a leather ball. This makes a significant difference for quarterbacks throwing the ball. Throwing the ball with such precision as quarterbacks do, consistency is needed to remove another variable for the mental calculations needed for throwing.

5. Leather balls, although get ruined, are easier to catch in the rain. Synthetic balls because they are not porous keep a good amount of water on the surface. Whereas, leather balls do absorb a good amount of water and retains some of its surface friction.

212 Shane November 9, 2010 at 9:56 pm

My favorite football memory is playing in a friends yard during middle school. We’d gather 4+ neighborhood friends and play tackle football till dark.

213 Dan November 9, 2010 at 10:19 pm

There’s nothing better than high school football. The sound of the band, the crowd, playing for your school…that’s my favorite football memory.

214 Hollis November 9, 2010 at 10:20 pm

I grew up in Connecticut, largely without professional sports (The Whalers are still my only team).
But my dad had gone to Yale, and he took me to a few of their home games every year when I was small. He taught me fight songs for schools he’d attended, and parody fight songs he’d learned in school to make fun of opposing teams (I know a really silly one for Notre Dame). He always bought me a felt pennant to wave, and took me over to meet the Columbia Lion or UPenn Quaker and have my photo taken.
Once, on a very cold day, when Penn was losing horribly, I remember the Quaker stripped down to his (red) briefs and his tricorn hat and ran around the field. I was about five years old, and I thought that was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

215 Tyler F. November 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm

the best running backs tackle the defense before they tackle them

216 Thomas Duff November 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Watching football with my dad every weekend growing up, betting a quarter on the game.

217 Adam November 9, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I got my first football one Christmas from Santa Claus when I was a young boy. I remember waking up and spotting it under the Christmas tree and how excited I was. Even more exciting was my dad taking me outside soon after opening my presents and throwing that football around with me. I can still remember the crisp cold air and the sting on my hands like it was yesterday!

218 Brent VanBruaene November 9, 2010 at 10:59 pm

My favorite football related memory would have to be my very first football practice. I was in 7th grade, and remember running out to the practice field wearing my helmet. It was almost surreal looking out through the face mask. I remember laughing with excitement, all to myself. That excitement never diminished through the last Friday night was fortunate enough to step on that sacred ground.

219 Caleb H November 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Thanksgiving day, all of us men(young and old) went out to the park and had a grand time throwing the ball around enjoying the day off and the beautiful Colorado November weather!

220 Dan November 9, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I remember football season well. Starting the season in the blazing heat of August and ending the season in the first snow of the year in October. Ah…football in Northern Wisconsin.

221 Hunter W. November 9, 2010 at 11:30 pm

It’s late November, twelve o’clock the family game is tied. Time for one more play, and I want the ball. I fake right then left pick my spot between the oak and the garage I’m ready. The ball is spiraling towards my hands I can already feel it in my grasp, then a shadow, and mass of strawberry blond hair with a pink bow, interception…. We lost now I have to spend the rest of the day being thankful. Happy Thanksgiving

222 Con November 9, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Awesome football! I would love to throw one of these around with my football-player son!

223 Eric November 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm

this will be great for me and my two grandsons.

224 William November 10, 2010 at 12:10 am

One of my fondest memories of childhood is the countless games of backyard football games played with my cousins during the Christmas holiday. Every year, all of my mom’s family congregated in Florida. What a joy it was to be able to play football all day for a week and a half!

225 Christopher Oppermann November 10, 2010 at 12:26 am

Junior year of high school, I was an O and D lineman. During our last game of the season (an OT loss), on a special teams play (a kick return, I believe), I was completely blindsided by a player on the defense. As I first flew in the air, parallel to the ground, and then came crashing down to earth, it took me a few breaths to shake it off, and get back on my feet. And at that moment I thought, “Man, that’s why I play this game!”

226 Kurt Kuster November 10, 2010 at 1:00 am

Playing midnight football with the guys in corridor 2C of Stanton Hall at Miami University (OH) is one my favorite memories. Those guys, those seven guys have been my best friends for the last 25 years. Now, I visit Miami, the home of coaches like Parseghian, Shembechler, Pont, Ewbank, Cozza, Blaik, and others and toss a football on the front lawn of Stanton Hall with my 9 year old a couple times a year. He’s already making college friends at annual tailgate party we have at Miami in honor of his birthday. A gorgeous campus in the fall with football, family and friends.

227 Chris November 10, 2010 at 2:21 am

Growing up in Chicago we played football every day at recess and lunch. When there was enough snow on the ground, we played tackle football, which was against school rules though the yard monitors usually turned a blind eye. Tackle football provided an added strategic dimension: the running game. Hand-offs are fairly useless when playing tag football, but when you actually have to tackle the guy with the ball, vast new possibilities for yard gains arise.

In 6th grade, which would have been the winter of 1988/1989, we were playing tackle, and I got a hand-off. I went up straight up the middle and was hit right at the line of scrimmage. Instead of wrapping me up and taking me down, the defender grabbed the shoulders of my winter coat from behind. He yanked it back, but I leaned forward and my weight unzipped my coat. I turned to the right and let my arm out of the right sleeve, then switched the ball to my right hand, pivoted left and pulled my left arm out its sleeve. I left the defender holding my coat inside out while I scored a touchdown.

Ah, the glory days.

228 Michael Li November 10, 2010 at 2:33 am

As a young boy, I came to this country with my parents. Not knowing a lick of English made it difficult to make friends. Until one day a bunch of other kids at the park were playing a 5 on 5 football game and needed one more person. Until this day I am still great friends of many of those guys and we often reminisce on how sports can bring people together and build camaraderie that lasts through a lifetime.

229 Joe November 10, 2010 at 2:47 am

Greatest football memory is when I earholed a linebacker from a rival high school so hard that it knocked his helmet off and blinded me with snot bubbles! You know you did something right when you give yourself snot bubbles!!! Wreck’em Tech!

230 Sean November 10, 2010 at 3:12 am

I’m a Peace Corps volunteer living in the Republic of Georgia for the next two years (way over south of Russia and north of Iran). Although the internet has made it possible to watch an occasional game over here, it’s not the same as an autumn full of football in the States. My wife also loves football (lucky, right?) and the two of us used to spend every Saturday morning through Sunday night, and then again Monday night, watching football non-stop, making and eating good food, drinking good beer and hanging out with friends and family. Over here, games are often on very late at night because of the time difference, but we’ll stay up, pop some popcorn the old fashioned way in a frying pan, and grab a liter of Georgian beer to try to recreate the magic!

231 Steve November 10, 2010 at 6:34 am

In the mid-sixties, I would watch the Dallas Cowboys with my dad on a black & white television. I didn’t know what was going on but remember my dad getting excited. It was quite an experience to watch my stoic father showing his feelings. I enjoyed it very much. He was a great dad.

232 don gale November 10, 2010 at 8:06 am

My best football memory was playing football with the neighborhood kids around age 10-14 or so. It was tackle, and we’d really try to rough each other up.

233 Ben November 10, 2010 at 9:07 am

As a college Sophomore watching the 1999 Virginia Tech v. West Virginia game in Morgantown. That day Penn State had already lost and we knew that if Tech won, we would slide up to Number 2 in the BCS standings and have a shot at the National Championship. Watching Michael Vick make “The Drive” and Shayne Graham kick the field goal to win and maintain the perfect season stood out as my favorite football memory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm3nfLFTmaU

234 Steven Jarvis November 10, 2010 at 9:36 am

My favorite football memory is the first time my son (he’s 7) caught a pretty long pass. The look on his face is something I’ll always treasure.

235 Eric November 10, 2010 at 10:04 am

My favorite memories are the pickup games my friends and I would play during high school. We’d meet up over Thanksgiving break and play against friends our rival high school, it was never too serious, but it was always a lot of fun.

236 Bud November 10, 2010 at 10:19 am

While playing a pick-up game with other poor graduate students, one of my teammates landed awkwardly while trying to receive a pass. His knee was hurt during the play. Instead of screaming loud exclamations of the obvious pain, he instead spouted “I don’t have health insurance!!!”

237 Nik November 10, 2010 at 10:23 am

Wow, those footballs look really well-made!!!

238 Mike N November 10, 2010 at 10:30 am

Watching Clemson beat Florida State last year at night in Death Valley to keep our ACC championship hopes alive… Hopefully we can do it again this week…

239 soul_cramp November 10, 2010 at 10:37 am

Great post. The simple act of playing catch either with football or baseball is an all American past time that you can enjoy through out life and I still do today. Some of the best bonding moments I’ve had with my dad, brother and a few close friends have been while standing in out in the yard tossing a ball back and forth. A physical activity that requires some focus and attention but not too strenuous so that you can still have a good conversation. Of course being men sometimes we can just pitch the “ol’ pigskin” around for half an hour and have no need to say anything,

240 JG November 10, 2010 at 10:39 am

When I was a kid I played peewee football for a few months, then we moved to another state and they didn’t have a local team, so I never got to do anything but practice.

I do have one unusual memory of the practice, though. The coach told everyone to run around the field a couple of times. This was a combination football field with a baseball field on the end of it. So when he said to run around the field, I took it that I was supposed to run around the fence line (i.e. both fields).

I was a pudgy little kid, so I was having trouble with the running, but I did it anyway. As I was running around the baseball field I noticed that everyone else was cutting the corner, and just running the football field. After all the running was over, coach had us in a line and he told me that I was the first person he had ever coached who took the initiative to run both fields and that he was proud to have me on the team. One of the best feelings in my life when I received that praise.

Everyone else started running both fields after that too.

241 Hanson November 10, 2010 at 10:41 am

Having grown up watching football with my Dad and brothers pretty much my whole life, its been hard having now moved away starting my own family. I now have a son of my own and work at a small private college with a football team. I have loved taking my son in the crisp air to watch the outdoor games the past weeks this fall. Even though our team doesn’t have a winning season, teaching my 1 year old “touchdown!” with his hands raised in the air is one of the best parts of being a dad. You just can’t beat it.

242 DanO November 10, 2010 at 10:52 am

Favorite football memory is definitely the one time at our annual thanksgiving day football game that it snowed. Being from Delaware, this probably will happen only once. There’s just something magical about running an out pattern and catching the ball through a flurry of flakes. Beats the best turkey any day.

243 Alec November 10, 2010 at 10:54 am

November 7, 1999: My first Bears game ever was at Lambeau Field the Sunday after Walter Payton passed away. They held a short ceremony and had a moment of silence for Walter before the game, which was memorable by itself. However, the game was even more memorable. The Bears were having a down year and the Packers were still very good, yet the Bears pulled out a 14-13 victory thanks to a blocked field goal as time ran out. Brian Robinson, who blocked the field goal, said he’d never jumped that high in his life and said that Walter probably had something to do with it.

244 James Lepine November 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

In 9th grade, I got an interception against one of the best teams in our conference, and almost took it to the house. We ended up winning the game, and my name got mentioned in the paper the next day.

245 Nick November 10, 2010 at 11:21 am

In the 8th grade I played tight end. One game against our biggest rivals, I caught a pass on a trick play that fooled everyone. I ran it down to the one before being pushed out, I probably went 60 yards. It was exhilarating. I spent most of the season blocking because we were a fantastic running team, but that one play made it all worth it. I’ll never forget it.

246 Mike November 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

I remember my dad and older brother playing football when I was young, this inspired me to play. 16 years later my dad was in the grass teaching me how to block a defensive end now. Its been about 12 years and we both get together and try to shed blocks. Im at the college level now but my old man still can handle himself

247 Bill November 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

My favorite football memory is only days old (November 6, 2010). I was there for Joe Paterno’s 400th win, but that wasn’t the best part of the day for me. My wife and I are ushers in Beaver Stadium and I arranged to have the trumpet section of the Blue Band play “Happy Birthday” for my wife who was celebrating a milestone birthday. Being able to suprise my wife with another special memory at our Alma Mater made that day my favorite football memory.

248 Ben November 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I lived in Clemson, South Carolina as a youngster and there’s nothing in that part of the world other than football. Pretty much everyday after school was filled with backyard brawls and streetlight overtimes in the summertime. One crisp and windy fall afternoon, a bunch of us jumped off the school bus, dropped our bags on the side of the neighborhood street and immediately chose teams. We decided this particular day that we had enough clothes and jackets on that we could survive a tough round of tackle football versus our usual “two-hand touch”. Towards the end when it was starting to get dark, my team was up by three and the other team was driving hard towards a touchdown so we had to hold them at all costs. We felt that an all out blitz was the gamble we needed. Right as the ball was snapped, we all rushed the line and I literally ran over one of my buds while getting through the line. As he fell on his back, he quickly found out that a pair of Wranglers is not a good substitue for a cup when my size four Pic-N-Pay Ponys landed square in his gentleman’s area. Needless to say, and after he recovered, the football game was immediately over and the track meet began as I ran all the way home with him hot on my tail trying to beat the crap out of me.

249 John November 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I grew up with three brothers. We would play two on two football all afternoon (or until somebody got hurt and it turned into a brawl)

250 M. Crawford November 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Me any my brothers and some friends played football almost everyday in the fall. I’m a Redskins fan, and my brothers cheer for the Eagles, and 49ers. It used to be no more than 2 vs. 2 with either Dad or a neighbor at all time QB but boy was it fun.

251 Ben waiss November 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm

My memmory is not of playing football but going back to Seattle for my high school coaches funeral. It was amazing to reminice on the old times and we realized the good traits ground into us on the football field.

252 Gerald Hutchinson November 10, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Each fall and winter, for a few years when I was about 8-12 years old, my neighborhood pals and I would meet up in the large field next to a neighbor’s house to play 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 pick-up football. One especially cold and gray day when we expected snow to start falling any moment, a group of boys from another area happened by to challenge us. They were just a bit older than we were, but our pride was at stake, so we accepted the challenge. Although the competition was a bit rougher than usual, it was an honorable game. I actually don’t remember the score or who won—maybe it didn’t eventually matter to either team, so engrossed we became in our intention to win—but the level of play was of the sort that had us giving only our very best, blocking, running passing routes, diving for tackles (two-hand touch), and running and passing the ball. At the end of the day, when the dinner bells were beginning to ring, we shook hands with our opponents and experienced the sort of high that only comes from being totally immersed in competing with a worthy foe.

253 Aaron November 10, 2010 at 2:32 pm

When I was 15, the Cowboys played the Packers in the NFC Championship game and my dad and I got to go to the game. It was incredible and cemented my love for football and the Dallas Cowboys, who I root for even when they let me down. After the game, my dad and I waited around at the players exit and got some autographs. I have the hat some of the players signed today and it is my favorite sports memorabilia because it reminds me of the game!

254 Spence November 10, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Great story! What’s more American than a handmade leather football? I sincerely hope that we rediscover the value of creativity, passion, and of working with ones hands in this country. I know that I am doing all I can to support small businessmen and women. I buy locally whenever possible and I always look for an American made alternative.
I have also always took the time to really reflect on what is necessary in my life. Before I purchase anything, I always ask myself the following questions:
Is it of high quality?
Will it last for at least 10 years of use if I take proper care of it?
Will I use it, or at least note it often?
Is it useful?
Is it beautiful?
If the answer is no to more than one of these questions, I don’t buy it. There are of course always exceptions but I find that these questions help me weed out 90% of the crap I don’t need in my life.
Anyway, if I were in the market for a new football these babies fit the bill without a doubt.

255 Jay Budzilowski November 10, 2010 at 2:47 pm

The first time someone threw me a pass on the elementary school playground…that memory sticks!

256 James November 10, 2010 at 2:47 pm

When I was in ninth grade, I made the JV squad. We were playing our cross town rivals from the western side of the county. We blocked a punt in the second quarter. One of my buddies was about to jump on the blocked punt but I pushed him out of the way and on my way to scooping and scoring on about a 20 yard return. The next day the varsity coach came over and pulled me up to the big squad and I stayed there for the rest of my high school career.

257 Marc November 10, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Growing up in Brazil meant that I wasn’t really exposed to Football – Soccer rules supreme in the land of Pele. However, I have very fond memories of learning to properly throw a football, being instructed by a cousin of mine. When I got that first spiral just right, I kinda felt like a kid all over again.

258 Brendan November 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Playing football in the front yard with my best friend after class, tripping over the roots. Wearing my number four Green Bay jersey, thousands of miles from Wisconsin. Emulating our heroes, then quickly retreating inside for fresh baked cookies. At this rate my kids may get to cheer on the same player.

259 Brian November 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Playing football in autumn with my dad definitely takes the cake for me. I wore a Bart Starr jersey every time we threw and would never let my mom wash it. Him teaching me how to throw a spiral had alot of great memories.

260 Andrew November 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm

My favorite football-related memory is from High School. My brother, my dad, my best friend, my best friend’s dad, a family friend, and I traveled from Florida to New Orleans to watch a Saints’ game. It was a great time for multigenerational male bonding.

Along the way there was a serious car accident that closed the interstate down for around an hour. With nothing better to do, we all go out of the car and played football on the side of the interstate.

Despite the Saints’ losing the game, the entire trip is full of fond memories.

261 Matthew November 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

My friends and I would play football every friday after school for about 3 years. We were still too young to drive, so somebody’s mom would always come pick us up from the park afterwards. I remember one time it had been raining, and we had been playing for a couple hours. We were completely covered in mud from numerous slips, falls and tackles, and when my mom came to pick us up, she took one look at us and told us to walk home. Still one of the most fun games I had ever played, and even the walk home was fun.

262 Matt November 10, 2010 at 5:10 pm

My favorite memory was playing football with some little kids a tailgate before a University of Illinois football game. Those kids were not concerned with how good they were, or whether they won or lost. All they seemed to care about was having fun while playing the game. We could all be a little bit more like those kids.

263 Matt G November 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm

My favorite memory was a JV game in about a foot of snow. No juking or dodging, just a lot of bone-jarring hits.

264 Craig Dietrich November 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I remember going out with my dad and two brother every Sunday during halftime of the Bears game and playing football. Honestly, with as bad as the Bears were in the late 90′s it was probally the highlight of the day. Sometimes the games did get a little heated though. haha.

265 Michael Douglas November 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm

When I was younger, my dad worked over an hour away because he couldn’t find a job in town that would have allowed him to be with us on the weekends. So while he would get home late many nights, and it was dark when he got home a lot of those nights, Saturdays were for us. As long as I didn’t have a ‘futbol’ game that morning, we would throw the football in the front yard as long as I wanted (which was probably a lot longer than he wanted to). Finally, I’d collapse onto the couch, but he’d start his household chores and projects. Manliness is not necessarily strength and power. Many times, manliness is strength under control, gentleness, and putting the cares of a little boy before your own…

266 Elder Greg Madde November 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm

One of my favorite football memories is bitterwsweet. It was not my own memory, but that of my son Jacob. You see, he did not start playing football in school until the 8th grade. Even then he was sort of a slow, smaller, uncorordinated kid. Don’t get me wrong, he has a fighting spirit and would stand toe-to-toe with the biggest kid on the team… and they all respected him. His 8th grade year he only played 10 mintues…for the whole year. I encouraged him not to get down, but to keep his chin up and try even harder next year. In 9th grade he played in the “mop up” crew. Once again he kept pressing on. His lack of playing time only made hime try harder. Then in the 10th and 11th grade he started on teh JV team, and played in a few series on the varsity. It was the summer before his senior year that he asked if we could send him (along with a few other boys on teh team) to an off-season trainer. we did and it really helped. You see, my son was relatively small (5’10″, 175lbs) when he won the starting strongside lineback postion his senior year in HS. His team did some great things that year, but still lost in the first round of the play-offs. In spite of that disapointment, football taught my son valuable lesson’s he still carries today. Hard work, perservierance, respect for authority. And now he is not only a loving husband and father, but he serves the young people in our church as the youth pastor to the same kids who go to the school he graduated from!

267 Dan November 10, 2010 at 6:03 pm

It was never about playing the game. It was the time spent with my dad after the game. It was after what the coach had to say, the feelings of victory or defeat with friends and after the couple beers it took to dull the new and old injuries. My best memories were coming home and finding my dad still awake waiting for me to come home. Waiting in the living room to talk about the game. It was when he was there to help me stretch in the middle of the night because my legs were cramping up. What I remember most I how my dad was always there Ready to celebrate the wins and big plays and help me through the losses and injuries. That is what stays with me.

268 Philip November 10, 2010 at 6:16 pm

My favorite memory it the first time I ever played football, I had no clue how to play. I just did what every other kid did, run to the other side and try & catch the ball. I was finally thrown the ball and caught it but then stood there no clue what to do next. My team mates started yelling to run to the end zone. I finally figured out what to do but it was too late I was tackled. I now know how to play the game. Aw childhood.

269 Andrew November 10, 2010 at 6:37 pm

My favorite football memory is the first time one of my boys was able to catch a football when I threw it to him. With four boys, we have a lot of ball playing time in our house.

270 Tryclyde November 10, 2010 at 6:37 pm

New York Football Giants win Super Bowl XLII! No, I obviously didn’t participate in it, but I’d be lying if I said my favorite football memory was some misty, water-colored memory of playing football in a sandlot at age 10.

271 tom November 10, 2010 at 8:35 pm

In pee wees i played defense but always wanted to score a td. So the coach wanted to try a trick play but the tight end didn’t wanna run it so they gave me a shot. I ran into the huddle and then before we broke I sprinted off the field like we accidentally had too many men. I waited right by the sideline as if i wasn’t in play and on the snap the qb threw it to me for an easy touchdown.

272 dt_aybabtu November 10, 2010 at 9:56 pm

My best memory is standing on the top row of the third deck of Kyle Field freshmen year with all my buddies watching the Texas A&M Aggies play. Those games were loads of fun.

273 Eric P November 10, 2010 at 10:51 pm

I have been a long time admirer of the leatherhead footballs. The craftsmanship is terrific and they are as much art as they are a functional piece of sports equipment.

My favorite football memories all stem from the countless fall Saturdays I spent in College Station, Texas as a part of the 12th man. There is no place like Aggieland!

274 Michael November 11, 2010 at 1:11 am

I have a lot of fond memories, but my favorite is almost certainly Devin Hester’s opening kickoff return during Superbowl XLI. The Bears weren’t able to keep up that level of excellence, but what a wonderful start to the game.

275 BillR November 11, 2010 at 8:52 am

“The Sarge”

When I was growing up on the fringes of suburban NJ, I was the only kid my age within reasonable distance of my own yard. With a younger brother too little to play the ony game that mattered, I was left to play by myself. One-on-zero football is really boring so I taught my dog to play with me. “Sarge,” an English Bulldog, was a tad slower than me, but he could certainly tackle me, and that’s all a little kid really needed. Sarge and I played many a game together, with him always on “D.” He would stand, poised to strike until I said “hyke” and then he would chase and haul me down by a sleeve, pant or anything he could grab. Sarge was a faithful opponent until I got too big to make the game any fun. He played the next two seasons, his last, against my brother. It’s a great memory my brother and I share of our time with Sarge and allowed us to live out our football fantasies when there was no one else on the gridiron. Just a boy, a ball and his dog.

276 TomB November 11, 2010 at 9:55 am

One of the greatest educational moments when young is watching and learning about football from dad while attending a game, so many nuances to pick up for a 5-6 year old.

277 The Wingnut November 11, 2010 at 10:20 am

I’m struggling with sorting all the fun into only one story. So many memories, and nearly all of them involve snow, mud, nasty weather, and injuries. Because “two-hand touch” football always leads to injuries, right? Right?

Thanksgiving with my side of the family involved the cousins all stuffing themselves silly, then going outside in the bitter cold and snow to play football. Not an ideal situation, especially for those who perhaps don’t exercise as often as they should.

I was feeling especially sluggish one particular year, but decided, as QB, that I was going to run it in. My lighter, stronger, faster cousin of course tackled me. (two-hand touch, remember?) I planted my foot and tried to stiff arm him. As we were tumbling down, I felt a pop in my right thigh. It went numb, and felt like it was cramped up.

I only realized later that I had probably pulled my hamstring, and should have not gone to work the next week.

Great memories, and a great giveaway!

Jason Jasperse

278 Matthew Jarsky November 11, 2010 at 10:26 am

My favourite football memory is very recent. Just this past summer, I taught my son and daughter to throw the football over a long weekend at a friend’s cottage. My son picked it up quickly. So adept was he, that I improved my technique by watching him. My daughter had a hard time, but she didn’t quit. I have never been much good at sports, so sharing them with my family, and having it go so well, has been a real pleasure.

279 John November 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

Paul should also start making the old school leather helmets…love to show up for the annual family Thanksgiving game with one of those…

280 Michael Morehead November 11, 2010 at 11:25 am

Senior year Highschool football, Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders, St. Paul MN, Quater finals, state tournament class 5A. The game is tied with 1 play left. The stereotypical movie ending plays out in what turned out to be my last game of football against a team we should have beaten. As one of the best teams in the state (every year), we lost the first game in the state tournament, after winning the title of section champions 14 yrs in a row, to an underdog team with a lot of heart by missing a field goal in the final seconds of the game. Cretin- Derham is a big football school (and sports school in general) and one of the best in the state. Greats like Paul Molitor and Joe Mauer, Chris Weinke, Matt Birk, and Corbin Lacina; baseball and football respectively. I felt pretty let down but proud to be out there.

More importantly those footballs look amazing! My compliments to Leather Head Sports!

Cheers

281 Oaklawnal November 11, 2010 at 11:44 am

A few years ago I was at a college game (Ark vs. TN) with my dad and some of his friends. The hogs beat the highly ranked vols and the fans, of course, stormed the field and tore down both goal posts. One they leaned up against the exit for the vols lockerroom. The other, they carried a mile to downtown and partied around it all night. Although we didn’t get in on the field storming and goal tearing down, we did get a great picture of us in front of the goalpost leaning up against a downtown bar.

282 John November 11, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Football is a wonderful mystery that juxtaposes feelings of misery (2-a-days in South Florida summers) and elation (making the key block to score a touchdown), but the best football memories I have were 15 minutes everyday before practice when my cousin and two good friends would talk about everything under the sun. Football was an activity that drew me closer to my cousin and I am forever grateful for that.

283 Andrew November 11, 2010 at 12:12 pm

These are awesome! I completely agree that there is an overabundance of flimsy, cheap goods in the world. My wife and I are photographers and regularly check antique and craft stores for props to include in our sessions. I personally love athletic and automotive antiques and I’m consistently amazed by how everything used to be sturdy and meaningful. Products used to be art!

I’d love to have one of these footballs! They’d be great Christmas presents. Here’s my football memory:

I grew up in the football-loving Midwest. Being near South Bend, Indiana everyone adored the Notre Dame legacy. However, for different reasons I was never able to attend a Notre Dame football game until THIS YEAR. This made a fantastic memory because I was lucky enough to be able to go with my parents, my wife, and my wife’s parents. Even better, it coincided with my wife’s parents’ 40th anniversary. Great memory!

284 JRam November 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm

most vivid memory– scoring the winning TD in a backyard game and going inside just time to see the final 10 min or so of the Flutie-to-Phelan Boston College game.

285 Mike M November 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I’ll never forget recovering my first fumble. I was a little leaguer, and during one of our games the offensive side dropped the ball. I was one of the smallest kids on the team, so I quickly slipped through the linemen and jumped on the ball, holding it tightly to my chest. A few instants later and both teams were dogpiled on top of me, but I held on for dear life. I emerged from the pile and “walked like an Egypitian” in celebration… the ball was ours!

286 Matthew J. Denton November 11, 2010 at 12:46 pm

We would play 11 on 11 backyard football at the Clemson U. band practice field during my time there…it’s one of my favorite memories going to school there.

287 Zach November 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm

In middle school I played tackle on D-line. One game, set out in the middle of nowhere in November, we were trailing pretty far. I managed to get through a gap and ran left. Everything was in slow motion as I saw the quarterback pull back the ball to throw. I jumped at him and clotheslined him from the side. Next thing I know, I’m on the ground by myself and the ball is rolling towards me, right into my hands. I grab it, pick myself up, and walk back towards the sideline. I’d sacked the quarterback and picked up a fumble. The referee came over and shook my hand; he said it was the hardest hit he’d seen all season.

288 Wolfger November 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I never got to play any organized ball, but in elementary school I played some playground ball with my classmates. I’ve always been a large (OK, fat) guy and so even at that age I wasn’t much of a ball carrier. But one day I did get my hands on the ball after I scooped up a fumble, and I carried that ball – and 3 or 4 other kids – halfway down the field. I haven’t owned or touched a football since my freshman year of college, but I sure would like to get my hands on one of these beauties.

289 Chase November 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Best Football Memory: My family is a huge football family. Every thanksgiving we have our own Turkey Bowl. Everyone present – who hasn’t had hip surgery yet – is picked on a team for a good ol’ game of two hand touch. I always play quarterback on one team and my dad plays QB on the other. One of my fondest memories was when my brother and I were on the same team a few years ago and we beat our dad and our two half-brothers for the first time. It was a sweet moment and we’ve never looked back taking them down year in and year out. My brother has moved away so the games aren’t the same anymore but that year will always stick out as the tides shifted in our favor.

290 Elaine November 11, 2010 at 2:23 pm

My favorite football memory is when my son was playing football in high school. He worked hard every practice to make his team the best it could be. He never made first string varsity but was selected to be captain of the team, by the team. This was the first time in school history that a non-starter was captain!

291 Chris November 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I remember the first time I went to a professional football stadium as a kid and saw the immaculately painted field for the first time. I looked at my father and said “it looks like a birthday cake!”

292 Jonathan Foster November 11, 2010 at 5:24 pm

As a kid, we often set up neighborhood wide football games in whatever space we could find (sometimes made for interesting boundaries and goal lines) that would go into the evening until we could not see to play. usually 6 or 8 of us, boys and girls were involved

293 John Polk November 11, 2010 at 6:30 pm

My dad was all about basketball and tennis, I was all about hockey and racquetball. We both enjoyed playing catch with a football.

294 David Miller November 11, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Oklahoma Sooners, led by coach Bob Stoops and QB Josh Heupel, winning the BCS National Championship against Florida State in 2000.

295 Steve November 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I remember tackling trees in the front yard wearing my brand Miami Dolphins uni from Sears with genuine Larry Csonka fake jersey.

296 Lee November 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm

It’s nice to see how he knows that the NFL footballs are too big for average hands. I always feel awkward trying to throw them by just holding the end of the ball.

297 Will November 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm

In college, we roadtripped from Texas to California two years in a row to watch the Longhorns play in the Rose Bowl–and the second year we wont the national championship!

298 chas November 11, 2010 at 10:12 pm

My favorite football memory is watching Rudy with my Dad, and then getting inspired to go throw a football in the cool autumn air.

299 Q. Tran November 12, 2010 at 1:49 am

I grew up playing the other kind of “football” before coming to the States at 15. I was introduced to American Football 10 years ago, Thanksgiving day. Our neighbor invited us over for dinner and we watched a game with them. At that time, I didn’t even know this sport even existed. Throughout the course of the game, my neighbor’s son tried his best to explain to me the rules, downs, scoring etc….but I didn’t get any of it, partly due to my extremely limited English at the time. However, some things about the game of football was very intriguing, not only because of all the actions, intensity, and excitements of the game itself but more so the passion of the people who were there watching the game with us that night. I became a football fan that night, the more I watch and understand the game, the more I fell in love with it. Nowadays, my neighbor’s families is often at my house on Sundays, watch games, eat dinner, enjoy each other company just like how it was 10 years ago, the only difference, they no longer have to explain the rules of the game.

300 Luftmensch November 12, 2010 at 2:47 am

I always enjoyed the smell of my grandfather’s old sport equipment. Most of it is over 70 years old and unusable, but authentic leather balls and hand-made banners harken back to a time when every part of sport was the honest product of someone’s hard work. Not to discredit the folks who work in the mines and foundries that make aluminum baseball bats or the factories that make balls and other equipment, but it’s not nearly the same physical connection and mutual anonymous respect.

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