Seventy Years and Counting
Every throw, every kick, every touchdown and every point in every NFL game has been with a Wilson football. Some of the greatest moments in football history have been told through the amazing feats of the players - and Wilson has been in their hands.
Wilson and the NFL were brought together in 1941 by George Halas and Tim Mara . The quality craftsmanship, including top leather, hand-sewn, lock-stich seams and performance of the ball were recognized by the NFL and they adopted the Wilson football as the official ball of the NFL.
Since then, Wilson has worked to continue producing the best footballs through innovations and quality craftsmanship.
The Official football of the NFL - "The Duke"
In honor of the late New York Giants owner, Wellington Mara, one of the most beloved and respected figures in professional sports history, the Official Football of the NFL is called "The Duke".
Wellington Mara, who spent 81 years with the New York Giants and made numerous contributions to the NFL, was named Wellington by his father, Tim Mara, after the Duke of Wellington. He was given the nickname "The Duke" as a youngster by Giants players.
The NFL first used a ball in honor of Wellington Mara called "The Duke" in 1941 at the suggestion of George Halas, as Tim Mara (Wellington's father) had helped him arrange for Wilson Sporting Goods Co. to become the league's official supplier of game balls.
"The Duke" ball was used through 1969 but was discontinued prior to the 1970 season, the first to be played post NFL-AFL merger. The NFL and AFL continued using a Wilson football, but with a new design and no official name. In 2006, the NFL returned the name of "The Duke" to the ball after Mara's passing in October, 2005.
Wilson has been the Official Ball for nearly 70 years and this is believed to be one of the longest partnerships in sports history.
Halas was associated with the Chicago Bears and the National Football League from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983. He represented the Bears, originally known as the Decatur Staleys, at the NFL's organizational meeting held in Canton, Ohio.
During his incredible career he filled the shoes of owner, manager, player, and promoter, and was an influential leader among the NFL's ownership. It was, however, as a coach that he excelled and was best known. Although Halas coached his Bears for 40 seasons, he stepped away from the coaching ranks three times - 1930-1932, 1942-1945 (to serve in the military), and 1956-1957. Mr. Halas was instrumental in pairing the NFL and Wilson in 1941 as official partners, by recommending the NFL select Wilson as the Official Football for all NFL games at the 1941 owners meeting.