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Super Bowl footballs have New York Giants history

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  January 25, 2012 06:35 PM

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Wilson footballs await packaging at the Wilson Sporting Good dedicated football factory in Ada, Ohio Jan. 25. Wilson Sporting Goods will ship 108 footballs to each team for Super Bowl XLVI. (REUTERS/Matt Sullivan)

Who is the "The Duke?" It's a simple question, one that every player for the New England Patriots and New York Giants will ask when they see the Super Bowl XLVI footballs.

The balls, made by Wilson in Ada, Ohio, by hand (as explained in the video below), are embossed with the XLVI logo, NFL commissioner Roger Gooddell's signature and the curious title, "The Duke." The NFL's footballs have actually carried the name "The Duke" since 2006, a not-so subtle return to the official ball after the title was retired in 1969 in the NFL-AFL merger.

The modern player wouldn't likely know that "The Duke" was former New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, father of current Giants owner John Mara. Wellington Mara was given the nickname "The Duke" when he was child growing up by New York Giants players. His father, Tim Mara, was the owner of the G-men then.

When Wellington Mara was co-owner of the Giants with his brother Jack, he helped spearhead the deal with Wilson Sporting Goods to become the official sponsor of the NFL's footballs. Then Chicago Bears owner George Halas, who worked with Wellington Mara on the deal, suggested the balls be named "The Duke."

From 1941 to 1969, the NFL's official football carried the title "The Duke," but the football was redesigned after the merger. In 2006, the NFL brought back "The Duke" after Wellington died.

Other fun facts about the football:

- Wilson's factory in Ada, Ohio is the only place in the world that creates the NFL's footballs.

- Each Super Bowl team receives 108 game balls, with 54 being for practice and the other 54 for the game.

- There are 120 balls used for the Super Bowl, including 12 for kickers.

- What's the difference between a regular Super Bowl ball and one for kickers? The security. The letter 'K' is inscribed on the kicker ball, which is sealed in boxes with anti-tampering tape. Those boxes are sent to the NFL official hotel one week before the game and then delivered to the officials' room two and a half hours before kickoff.

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