Rick House, director of technology at Jones & Vining, is framed through an older-style football helmet Thursday afternoon at the company’s facility in Lewiston. A helmet featuring the company’s new, higher-protection padding rests in front of House. Jones & Vining makes the interior foam padding for Riddell’s SpeedFlex helmets, which will be worn Sunday by many of the players in Super Bowl LIII. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

LEWISTON — A longtime local company may not be in the starting lineup at Super Bowl LIII, but it will be on the field.

Jones & Vining on Webster Street makes the 16 pads that fit inside Riddell SpeedFlex helmets. That company’s helmets are worn by more than half of the players in the National Football League.

On Sunday, many of the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are sure to be wearing them in Atlanta.

Most of the time, “we don’t cheer for anybody, necessarily,” said Jones & Vining General Manager Michael Maskwa, laughing. “Except this week.”

The more-than-80-year-old company got its start in the area’s booming shoe industry. Today, with 85 employees, it makes polyurethane and injection-molded components for footwear, firearms, hardware, audio, medical supplies and other industrial uses.

Riddell is the first football helmet manufacturer with which Jones & Vining has worked, and the relationship goes back more than 12 years. The newest SpeedFlex style was 2½ years in development to get the foam pads just right.

Rick House, Jones & Vining’s director of technology, oversees the in-house lab and testing facility.

“They come looking to (Rick) to come up with a foam formulation that meets their specs,” Maskwa said.

House had to consider properties such as hardness, rebound, strength and weight.

Maskwa said the company has produced millions of the football helmet pads. They are sent on to another company, which encases them, and then another that assembles the final, wearable product.

“Most people have no idea what we do because we do this for other people. We don’t have our own label,” said Dan Keeley, industrial sales representative.

“For me, being the sales guy, whenever I go see someone new or go to trade shows, (the helmet’s) the first thing out of the bag,” Keeley said. “Gives you instantly credibility.”

Riddell has estimated more than 60 percent of NFL players wear its helmet. It is also popular with high school and college players.

The SpeedFlex is most easily identified on the field by the thin, horseshoe-shaped punch-out on the forehead.

Maskwa said some players customize the inside padding, but he believes a good number keep it as it rolls out of the factory.

Employees like to come in on Mondays and talk about where they spotted the helmets in games over the weekends.

“I’ve been in branded products for 40 years,” Maskwa said. “When you can point at something either in the store or on TV that you know you’ve made, it’s really meaningful for everybody here.”

[email protected]

Padding that is made by Jones & Vining in Lewiston is part of a new style Riddell SpeedFlex helmet used by many players in the NFL. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)