New York, NY – There are 3,000 officials from college football and the Canadian Football League (CFL) in the database of NFL Football Operations who are evaluated constantly for consideration for the League. Only 1.2 percent of those NFL hopefuls are selected to participate in the NFL Officiating Mini-Clinic process, and this year is no different.
Forty officials with major Division I officiating experience, including three women (Robin DeLorenzo, Sebrina Brunson and LaShell Nelson) and three officials from the CFL, were invited to this year’s Officiating Development Program (ODP).
NIne conferences were represented with a variety of personalities and experiences. Through “fun facts,” participants in the ODP shared their backgrounds that spanned everything from a minister to a volunteer firefighter to an extra for seven operas.
NFL Vice President of Officiating Evaluation and Development Wayne Mackie and NFL Scouting Coordinator Dave Wyant addressed the ODP participants with humor and a dose of reality.
“ODP is here to introduce you to the NFL,” voiced Mackie. “You (ODP participants) being here doesn’t mean you will be an NFL official. We want to see how coachable you are in certain situations…how you act in a setting. Now, do not stop working. We have had many potential officials who thought they were in and stopped working their regular jobs. Got ahead of themselves.”
“Stay off social media. If you have pictures with you and your family, that’s okay and nice,” he continued. “I want you to know that we are watching. We see everything. Stay humble. Work hard.”
Wyant has over 40 years of NFL officiating experience. Though he is more humorous than Mackie with decades of NFL stories and tales, his message to the ODP participants was simple.
“Don’t be critical of each other. Learn from each other,” he instructed. “Develop good habits over and over again. I want to see you officiate a football game before you hit the field.”
NFL Football Operations has 71 scouts in 31 states to evaluate officials. Currently, there are 123 officials in the NFL. Many of the potential NFL Caretakers are at the mercy of the current crew due to slow retirement. While an NFL invitation can be immediate for a few, it may take years for the majority and oftentimes discouragement sets in.
Mackie, who is a 10-year veteran game day official, stressed the importance of finding “a mentor” and who could be better than someone like down judge David Oliver.
Oliver was once an ODP participant and after his first year through the program, the League did not reach out to him. So, Oliver kept working. He went on to officiate in NFL Europe and in the SEC.
Ten years later, Oliver received the call from the League he thought would never come. Oliver’s message was clear to all the ODP participants.
“Don’t be negative, don’t be discouraged,” he encouraged humbly.
Umpire Ramon George’s transition from officiating on Saturdays to throwing flags on Sundays was more immediate than Oliver’s, but the anxiety was the same.
“I thought that call would never come (laughter),” said George.
While Oliver focused on perseverance, umpire Ramon George expressed the importance of time management and taking care of the physical body.
“Time management is something…probably the toughest transition to make,” stated George. “With a family and kids, not to mention if you have a job, you have to balance all of that with the tests and videos you have to study and review. So, time management is deeply important.”
“I’ve been in shape all my life, so I’ve been fine there,” he added. “But after a game, I’m sore. I invested in compression boots and I get a massage once a week so I can recover quicker. So, make sure you take care of your body.”
The ODP participants had the opportunity to tour the NFL front offices and NFL Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron checked in on them to review some videos in Art McNally GameDay Central.
Riveron’s message was clear, “Officiate what you see on the field.”
The NFL Officiating Clinic is scheduled for July and some of the ODP participants will be invited. Only a select few will graduate from the program to officiate in the League.
Still, they are taking this experience all in.