Clete Blakeman achieved the ultimate when he learned this week that he’ll be the referee for Super Bowl 50.
“It’s truly an honor and privilege to work this game,’’ he said. “It’s the biggest game of the world for us.’’
Blakeman, a former football player at Nebraska, isn’t allowed to make any more comments about working his first Super Bowl game until afterward.
He was chosen after grading out in the top tier of three after working 20 NFL games this season. He’ll be part of a crew of seven.
According to reports, Blakeman is known as a strong and decisive game manager. He earned praise last week for the way he handled a wonky coin flip at the start of overtime between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals.
On Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, his biggest task will be to keep the game going. He’ll announce penalty and replay decisions.
Because of the speed of the game and the concentration required, it’s not an easy task. But Blakeman has spent 28 years getting ready for this moment.
He decided he wanted to be an official after leaving Nebraska, where he was a quarterback for the Huskers from 1983 to 1987. He worked high school, small college and Division I games before joining the NFL officiating crew eight years ago.
It’s in his blood. His dad Glen, who died about a year and a half ago, also was an official, and Blakeman would travel with him to games.
Blakeman said his dad would be proud.
“I know he’ll be there with me,’’ he said.
Officiating takes many hours and not just on game days. Studying the NFL’s rules and philosophies is a big part, too. He started as a field judge and became a referee in 2010. He was selected as an alternate referee for Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
Blakeman juggles his NFL demands with being a personal injury attorney in Omaha. He and wife Katie are also parents to 4½-year-old Maeve and 2½-year-old Hudson.
He’ll have to do some homework for the Super Bowl because he won’t be working with his usual crew. The seven officials chosen will go over beforehand how to run the game and handle different scenarios. They have worked a combined four Super Bowls.
Every referee has a different style. But it’s a group effort to control the game and keep it going. They’ll try to treat it like just another game, but a lot of years of effort and experience have gone into being chosen.
Plus, the world is watching. In 2015, a record 114.4 million people watched the New England Patriots edge the Seattle Seahawks, the most watched television show in U.S. history.
“It’s the ultimate in what I do,’’ Blakeman said. “I’m pleased.’’
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