Un-locked: Local NFL ref returns to the field
Former Albemarle supervisor David Wyant says he got the email at 3:30am Thursday morning. He was going back to work. Wyant, an NFL referee for 22 years (there are only seven other guys in the League who've been at it longer), says he's already been assigned to the Dallas/Bears game on Monday Night Football and leaves for three days of clinics on Friday.
"We thought we could just go ahead and renew the old contract, but the League had other ideas," he says about the new contract, which was hammered out in a marathon session over the last two days, following a disastrous call at the end of the Packers/Seahawks game last Monday that gave the Seahawks the win. Football fans across the nation, especially Packers fans, were outraged. "But that's okay. It's just big business. We got all the basic stuff."
"They did as well as they could," says Wyant, 65, about the replacement referees, "but it's a whole different ball game at that level. It's the toughest job I've ever had."
This from a man who worked as a VDOT engineer for 30 years, and navigated the local political landscape as a County Supervisor.
"It's nice they got a chance to be on an NFL field," says Wyant. "It was a dream to many of those young guys, but they were under tremendous pressure."
The replacement refs were from the college arena, and Wyant says it's completely new territory at the NFL level. For instance, college refs typically have a 10-game schedule, whereas in the NFL you have a 20-game schedule.
"It's about endurance and game concentration at the NFL level," says Wyant. "You have to completely concentrate the whole three hours, every game. It can take its toll throughout the season."
Wyant says he's excited to be back doing something he loves.
"It's a fascinating job, and I've been lucky to be doing it for so long," he says. "I'm close with a lot of coaches, and the thing is, they are all great people. I like some better than others, but they are nice people. That's what I'll miss most when I retire."
This time, considering how much the fans have disliked the replacement refs, official refs like Wyant could get a little fan love when they hit the field.
"That will be short-lived," Wyant laughs. "After the first couple of bad calls they'll probably be screaming to have the replacement refs back."Read more on: David Wyant