NFL players are lauded for their physical fitness — rightfully so. They spend hours in the gym and at practice to ensure they can perform at a high level. While players get all the attention, NFL referees must follow the game without being able to rotate between offense and defense.
While referees may not be the most physically imposing people on the field, they cannot do their job without maintaining strong discipline and peak fitness.
Being an NFL referee
Referees don’t rest six days a week then go to work on the seventh day to half-heartedly do their job. They must train, practice, and study the game just like players do. After all, only a handful of refs officiate every game; they must be on top of things.
When describing life as an official, former NFL Senior Director of Officiating Jerry Seeman discussed this preparation with the league: “If you were going to write a 10-chapter book about what it’s like to be an official in the NFL, the first nine chapters would deal with preparation. The last chapter would deal with the game.”
Becoming an NFL referee takes years of hard work. They must work their way up the tiers of high school, college, and then professional officiating. Referees are also expected to travel across the country at the last minute in order to officiate a game.
Players can be benched, but officials must be ready for anything. As such, showing up unprepared is never an option.
Appreciating NFL referees
NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt recently went on a diatribe during his morning show Good Morning Football. The tongue-in-cheek rant was meant to pay homage to the NFL referees who hit the gym with physical results.
The league’s longest-tenured referee, Ed Hochuli, consistently made headlines due to his buff physique, especially as he neared 70 years old in 2018. According to Brandt, the now-retired official shouldn’t be the only one who gets credit.
If Hochuli was labeled the buff referee, then Clete Blakeman has found a niche for himself as the hot referee, Kyle Brandt notes. Blakeman even trended on twitter as #HotRef due to his physique. While there is a tongue-in-cheek element to all of this, officials like these put in work.
Brandt went on to praise NFL referees for staying in shape and doing what must be done to prepare for an oft-unforgiving job.
NFL referees’ sacrifices
NFL referees aren’t out there to please us. Despite Brandt’s humorous speech about the league’s most fit referees, officials must stay in tip-top shape.
Most pro athletes retire in their twenties and thirties while refs can work into their seventies. Even if referees aren’t out there running routes or jumping over defenders, their fitness has to last even longer.
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