There’s a lot that can be said about Fred Cox. He was an excellent kicker for the Minnesota Vikings. He played for them throughout his career and is known as the team’s leading all-time scorer. He’s listed as one of the 50 greatest players to ever done the purple uniform and he’s even a medical professional and a licensed pilot. And oh, by the way, he also invented one of the most loved toys of all time, the Nerf Football.
The Nerf Football Became Real in 1972
Before the Nerf football came about, these foam balls were just that: foam balls. They were round and soft and fun to throw, but that was really about it. The idea for the football version of this fun Nerf product came about when John Mattox started talking to Cox about having a backyard version of a goal post that kids could use in the backyard.
The idea was to initially have a heavy ball that couldn’t be kicked out of the yard, but Cox thought something different would be better. If it was made of foam, it would make the legs of kids sore. Together the two men developed a full-sized football prototype of a foam ball that was thick-skinned and denser than other existing Nerf products that had been around for two years.
What made it special was that the weight of the ball was right. When it was thrown or kicked, it flew like a real football.
Why Is the Nerf Football So Small?
Although the initial prototype that was developed for this invention was a full-sized football, Cox figured that the primary target demographic on this product would be kids. Kids have a hard time handling and gripping a regular football, so the product was reduced by about 25% in size and introduced to Parker Brothers, who had developed the Nerf ball line.
The presentation included the goal posts too. The goal posts, in fact, where the main part of the presentation. It didn’t take long for the company executives to want just the ball… because they’d been trying to develop a Nerf football for years without success. The only method they hadn’t tried, in fact, was the injection molding methods that Cox and his partner used. Six months later, Cox signed a contract that guaranteed him a royalty on every Nerf football that was sold.
Cox built a reputation for having an incredible focus when the game was on the line. That focus helped him develop one of the most loved toys that is still played to this day. Millions of footballs are purchased and more are thrown in games of catch or touch football every day. All of them have Fred Cox to thank for that.
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