The best football factory in America has recently moved their operations to an all new facility in North Dallas. Join us as we take a tour inside.
Made in Texas: A Visit to Big Game Football Factory
In this recurring series, we visit the best product brands in the Lone Star State, and introduce you to the Texans behind them. Our Made in Texas series is an extension of our popular 2013 publication, Texas Works: Products and Portraits of Talent. Photos by Caleb Kerr.
Texas is home to one of the best football factories in the world. Few people know that fact, however. The folks at Big Game work in relative obscurity, as most of their products leave their loading dock branded with iconic names like Nike and Adidas, or as commemorative balls celebrating seemingly every brand other than their own.
But in our view, they’re a brand worth celebrating. Their products are quality, their employees are friendly, and most important to any Texan: their enthusiasm for football is unmatched.
In the early fall of 2014, just as the first snaps of the football season were made across America, Big Game USA moved their factory from Frisco, Texas to a larger, more capable facility in North Dallas. We wanted to be among the first to visit their new home, and share with you what we saw.
Well, most of what we saw, anyway. Big Game has perfected the difficult process of consistently manufacturing products that meet the stringent requirements of governing authorities like the NCAA. This achievement is largely the result of their trade secrets, and appropriately, we've kept those secrets to ourselves. What we can show you otherwise is presented in the photo tour below, the first entry to our Made in Texas series: A Visit to Big Game Football Factory.
The process of hand-making game play and commemorative footballs begins and ends in this spacious room, with vibrant walls celebrating athletes using Big Game footballs.
The outer skin of each ball is made of four equally sized "football-shaped" pieces, each manually stamped using a die.
There are multiple sizes and regulations for footballs depending on the level of play. Big Game produces balls for all levels.
Beyond balls intended for regulation game play, Big Game also makes commemorative and specialty balls using the same process. Big Game's hero ball, the 1906 Collegiate Leather Football, is made of real leather, while non-gameplay balls use synthetic panels.
Customization is a part of daily production at the factory. Big Game does brand a lot of footballs with their own logo, but the majority of the balls are stamped with "Nike" or "Adidas." Perhaps you've heard of 'em. Those balls are manufactured specifically for the collegiate football programs sponsored by these sporting goods giants. As a result, you can find custom press plates for most of the top college football programs right there on the Big Game factory floor.
Once the panels are cut, they're sewn together by hand using industrial sewing machines.
The panels are sewn inside out to keep the seams concealed on the inside.
Once stitched, the seams are flattened, to eliminate bulges.
At this stage, the primary construction is complete. The balls are now ready to be turned inside out.
Balls are warmed slightly to make the process of inversion easier.
Next, the air bladder is installed and the ball is partially inflated.
The laces are then threaded with the assistance of a special tool akin to a screwdriver with a hole through the tip. This design helps them pull the laces back and forth through the holes more easily than if done with their fingers alone.
After the laces are in place, the ball is inflated fully. A final quality control check makes sure everything is in order, down to the exact alignment of each lace.
Shown below: A finished Nike Vapor Elite ball.
Beyond custom vinyl panels sewn into the ball, some commemorative balls are painted for individual players.
Our favorite photo from our visit to Big Game Football Factory is the photo of our pile of footballs. You can't tell, but the ones on the bottom layer are deflated, keeping them from rolling away.
Special thanks to Big Game USA founder and owner, Chris Calandro (below), as well as Sarah Kaiser, Cory Jensen, and the rest of the talent Big Game staff for hosting us on this tour. If you'd like to visit Big Game Football Factory, you can do so Monday - Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. They're located at 13835 Welch Road, Dallas, Texas 75244.