Walt Coleman is now a Hall of Famer.
Don’t expect to find a bust of him in Canton — there are currently no referees enshrined, despite many qualified candidates. Instead, the NFL head referee got a brief moment, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, to accept induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. His father, Buddy Coleman, an NCAA official in the former Southwest Conference, was inducted in 1995.
When he is off the field, Walt Coleman is the fifth generation operator of the family business: Coleman Dairy in Little Rock. There must be something in the milk, as the dairy is, in addition to the two Colemans, home to a third Hall of Famer, Cliff Shaw, also a former zebra from the SWC.
It was the family business, in fact, that drove Walt Coleman to the NFL. The Southwest Conference allowed native Arkansans to officiate University of Arkansas games. Coleman, not wanting to affect the business, applied for work in the NFL. He was hired as a line judge in the big league in 1989 and promoted to referee in 1995. He served as an alternate for Super Bowl XLII to Mike Carey.
Coleman hinted about a possible retirement in 2013 in a very fascinating Arkansas Democrat-Gazette profile back in January:
“I’d be 61 if I’m in the league 25 years,” Coleman said. “Not many people can say that they’ve been in the league 25 years, so that would be nice.”
Fortunately, the Coleman family business is more than milk. Coleman’s retirement could make room for his son, Walter Coleman IV, who is working as a line judge in the Big 12 Conference.