LIMA — Andy Wentling, plant manager of the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio, shared with the Lima Noon Sertoma Club some of the technology inside a Wilson-made National Football League football.
“We have looked all over the football trying to make it a better product. The most fun job is that you cannot fail with that. You’re just trying to make samples make sense, and it’s been right so far.”
Andy was hired to design bladders that would encapsulate sensors so that footballs could be tracked. For about eight to ten years, players have had sensors in their shoulder pads which enabled teams to see how fast they run, to see how high they jump, and to see what routes they run. But they didn’t know why the players were running where they were running because they didn’t know where the football was.
As a product engineer, Andy was given the task to place a sensor that is three and a half grams in weight in a football so that the ball can be tracked as the players have been for years. Teams can now calculate the time it takes to get the ball, how long it takes to process the defense before the ball is thrown, and then how long it takes to get to the receiver. Did he catch it or drop it can all be determined by the sensor inside the bladder. On Monday, all the data collected is sent by the league to all thirty-two teams in the National Football League.
When the new sensor was first designed, quarterbacks complained that they could feel the vibration of the sensor. So there was a lot of testing involved to the point where now it is forgotten. It has been in use for five years now.
Wilson is constantly developing new innovations in footballs. Quarterbacks wanted to know where to grip the ball. Fingers of quarterbacks were mapped, as were where the grip targets were on a football. This led to grip stitches being put on the football because in today’s fast-paced game, quarterbacks do not have the time to find the laces. When this ball was launched about four years ago, Ohio State, Ohio Northern University, and The University of Findlay field tested the football – division one, division two and division three, respectively. They were the only three schools in the country to play with the new football. Wilson had to get approval from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Federation of High School Associations.
Andy stated, “We’ve been in Ada since 1955. Been with the NFL (National Football League) for over 80 years. It’s the longest partnership with any professional location in sports history. We’re so very proud of that.”
Reach Dean Brown at 567-242-0409