Football season is fast approaching and if you are like me, you can’t wait. Behind soccer, it is my favorite sport to watch on TV and behind baseball as my favorite sport to attend live. Although it comes second in both categories, there is something about football that you can’t replace.
The hard hits, the big plays and the nail-biting close games that you leave in the hands of the most joked about position on the field. I was the kicker in high school so I can say that.
There is a little-known aspect of football that is often overlooked. I had no idea the amount of preparation goes into the football season. Of course, I know about the preparation the players and coaches go through in order to have a successful season such as watching film and putting in long hours on the practice field. But whether we realize it or not, the managers are just as important.
Whether it’s preparing the water bottles, getting the correct jerseys to every player or making sure the footballs are correctly mudded, the managers do a lot behind the scenes.
You’re probably wondering what it means to make sure the footballs are correctly mudded. Until about 20 minutes ago, I didn’t know either. I assumed the footballs were ready to use right out of the box. However, footballs have to go through a process called mudding to make sure the grip is acceptable for the quarterback and receivers.
I am going to try to explain this process that managers use for every single football that is used throughout the season. They use this process on hundreds of footballs each season and the entire process takes two or three days to complete.
Each football that comes straight out of the box has a film on it that is used in order to protect the ball for long term use. The average person will buy the ball for fun recreational activity and over time the ball will eventually break itself in. The average person won’t be able to tell that the ball isn’t as easy to grip at first.
However, college and professional football teams need the grip and softness right away, so they speed the process up by breaking their footballs in.
The first step is to remove the film on the new football. They use a ball brush machine which is essentially a bench grinder with a stiff brush wheel. They run the football underneath it until they can feel the dimples in the football much easier. Throughout the mudding process, the color of the football will go from a reddish color to the brown color we are all used to seeing.
The second step is to condition the football with shaving cream. This process makes the football a bit softer but ultimately, it’s used to bring out the red dye from the ball. They spray the ball down with the shaving cream and rub it in really well.
They let the shaving cream sit on the ball for about 5 minutes and take it back to the ball brush and repeat step 1 until the shaving cream is off the ball.
The next step is to apply leather conditioner. Much like the shaving cream step, they rub it in well and let it sit for about an hour. After about an hour if the ball isn’t dry, they will use a heat gun until it is dry.
The next step is the most important step and what the whole process is named after. This is the time to apply the “mud” to the ball. The mud used isn’t mud that you go dig a hole in the backyard and wipe that mud on the ball. Football mud is specially made for footballs and baseballs to break in the leather and make it much easier to grip the leather. It’s a special mud with various minerals in it and it’s sold and marketed as such.
This process is like the shaving cream and leather conditioner steps. They take a scoop of the mud and rub the football all over, making sure they really work the mud into every part of the ball. They let the mud sit on the ball overnight so that it really sinks into the ball.
The next day they wipe the mud off and use the ball brush machine to make sure it gets out of the seams of the ball. After this step the ball is the brown color we all know and love.
The final step is to buff the ball with a brush for about an hour. They don’t use the ball brush machine for this because they want to control the process with this step. A lot of elbow grease goes into this step. Once the ball is completely buffed, it is now game-ready.
The process of mudding the ball blew my mind because it totally makes sense, yet I had no idea it existed. I’ve bought new footballs from the store and used game ready footballs in high school. There is absolutely a difference in the feel of the two.
This process makes me appreciate the managers on the football team a whole lot more. It’s not just the water bottles they have to worry about preparing. A lot goes on behind the scenes and the managers are to thank for the performance of the team. It makes me wonder about all the other things they do that we, as viewers, don’t know about. Now it totally makes sense that the managers get a Super Bowl ring when their team wins the big game.