The name Wilson is inextricable from football history. And when you've been in business for a lifetime, you want a commemoration that lasts just as long. That's why the sporting goods company commissioned artist BJ Betts to help them create three footballs in honor of Marshawn Lynch's career, with a classic illustrative style depicting the earliest days of the game. The balls are being auctioned off for Lynch's charity, The Fam1st Family Foundation. Check out each one below.
1: Your Roots
For generations, Wilson has produced the official football of the NFL. As Betts points out in the video above, every point ever scored in the NFL is done with a Wilson football. And countless players first learned the game playing ball in their backyard with a Wilson. To pay tribute to the rough and tumble predecessors of the game's early days, Betts draws some old-school tough guys who would stitch up their own leather helmets on the sidelines. Now that's the definition of skin in the game.
2: Here and Now
It's not just the history. Wilson is still the name in the game today and every day. So Betts uses a modern style of art and typography to depict Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII. As anybody who's visited knows, the city has a devoted fandom, and a long history as a football town. This football encapsulates the drive and passion of not only the locals and visiting fans in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but everyone who watched the big game around the world.
3: Family First
When you're making things by hand, you don't just have a job, you have a trade. And when you share that trade with others, you don't just have coworkers. You have a family. In the video above, you'll see just how deep Wilson's commitment to "Family first" goes as you meet Jimmy Conroy, who learned his father's craft turning footballs. Working alongside his aunt and uncle, he became part of the Wilson family -- and they were there for him when he suffered the worst loss imaginable. His tattoos tell the story of his family, too, as he describes it, "My kids: my most important tattoos, just a reminder of why I get up and do what I do every day." They are, as he puts it, "My purpose." And when he needed strength from his extended family at Wilson, he found it.
4: Inspiration in Life
Anyone who's ever inked a phrase to live by into their skin knows that words are power. For this ball, Betts picked relevant phrases from Lynch's life to mark forever on a ball. "Bound for big things" is the story of his career, "Family first" is the mantra he made into a charity, "Beast Mode" has been his nickname since school, and "Ice City" reminds us that he's never forgotten the love for his hometown of Oakland. And while there's a lot of meaning to "The guardian," it's important to remember that Wilson, as Lynch points out, is "The guardian of the game." As Betts points out, “Whether it’s for a sandlot, some five-year-old kid, NCAA, up until the NFL, this is a handmade item they take the same amount of pride in producing” as his own handmade art.
While it's unlikely that the league will start playing with tattooed balls, hopefully this is the start of a bigger trend in collectibles, so that fans who love to express their devotion on their skin can throw a football to match it.