By John Riker
PHOENIX — As a quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders, Jarrett Stidham has made a living out of gripping and ripping footballs. But before Friday afternoon, he had no idea of how NFL footballs are crafted. Stidham stopped by the Wilson exhibit at NFL Experience to see for himself how a football gets made and build a super souvenir of his own.
INTRO: Today’s NFL players and coaches know plenty about the ins and outs of football. But how much do they know about the pigskin itself ahead of the big game on Sunday? Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham went behind the scenes at NFL Experience.
WILSON EMPLOYEE #1: How are you?
WILSON EMPLOYEE #1: So what I do is I sew together NFL footballs.
[SEWING MACHINE TURNS ON]
V/O: The journey begins with sewing.
V/O: In the opening stages, Stidham gives the football a personal touch with an autograph to commemorate the moment, before the ball is turned inside out.
WILSON EMPLOYEE #1: So you just don’t think about it?
STIDHAM: Yeah, I don’t think about it at all.
WILSON EMPLOYEE #2: You’re right-handed, right?
WILSON EMPLOYEE #2: So you put your left hand in there …
STIDHAM: I want to see the pro do it. I need to see the pro do it.
[EMPLOYEE OPENS THE FOOTBALL]
STIDHAM: Wow. Just like that.
V/O: At last, Stidham’s football starts to look the part. Next comes another iconic feature — the laces.
STIDHAM: I like for it to be skinny, like skinnier, and pointy.
V/O: Stidham entered the league as Tom Brady’s backup in 2019. Now, it’s time to inflate the football.
[EMPLOYEE PLACES THE FOOTBALL IN INFLATION MACHINE]
V/O: Finally, the football is all ready for Stidham to grip it and rip it.
STIDHAM: Just to be able to grab it and throw it, for us is …
WILSON EMPLOYEE #3: Especially when you have those big defensive linemen coming after you.
V/O: While Stidham’s Raiders fell well short of the Super Bowl, the Las Vegas QB came out of Super Bowl week with new insights and a super souvenir.
TAG: Reporting from downtown Phoenix, John Riker, Medill Reports.
John Riker is a Sports Media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter.