Every time a New York Giants or New England Patriots player looks at one of the 120 footballs used on the field during Super Bowl XLVI he will see the name "The Duke" embossed on the ball and might wonder 'Who the hell is that?'
It's more of a mystery for Patriots players than the Giants side because "The Duke" was the beloved Giants owner Wellington Mara— father of current owner John Mara— who passed away in 2006.
The older Mara was given the nickname by Giants players when he was a child growing up on the sidelines on the franchise started by his father Tim Mara.
And right there, prominently branded on all of this Sunday's balls— next to the "XLVI" logo and "Roger Goodell" signature— is the nickname of the deceased owner which some of the current Giants team knew and fondly remember.
The balls are made by Wilson Sporting Goods in Ada, Ohio and have been called "The Duke" for most of the league's history.
It all started when Wellington and his brother Jack made a deal with Wilson to become the official sponsor of the NFL's ball. Former Chicago Bears owner George Halas, who partnered with Wellington on brokering the deal, suggested that the balls be named "The Duke."
From 1941 through 1969 the NFL's official ball carried the name "The Duke," but was eliminated after the AFL-NFL merger.
The name returned in 2006, after Mara's death, as a tribute to the Giants owner .
It looks like the Giants have at least sentimental advantage on the field over the Patriots.