Super Bowl 50 referee Clete Blakeman has lead a relatively obscure existence in the NFL, with an occasional reference here, although I’ve even admitted in the past to be “riding high on the Clete Blakeman bandwagon.”
The first sign that something was piquing the interest of fans on Sunday was when our post “Who will be the referee at Super Bowl 50?” was suddenly being viewed in record numbers right after the opening coin toss. (It was actually a post with our predictions, not even the post with the actual assignment.) Twitter being the mashup of every corner of everyday life began converting Blakeman into #HotRef. Appearing on the fourth hour of Today with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, Blakeman said he was surprised by all of the attention. “It was one of those where it happened, I thought ‘well, it’s just a couple of tweets going out,’ blah-blah-blah, but then it got that momentum, and it started blowing up and the guys in the locker room are giving me some business.”
Later, he appeared on Access Hollywood Live with Billy Bush and Kit Hoover (sports connection: formerly of ESPN’s Cold Pizza sports-themed morning yakker), which is airing from New York this week.
Blakeman just finished his 8th NFL season, and 6th at the referee position. This was his first Super Bowl assignment and his 6th postseason game, in addition to 3 Wild Card games and 2 Divisional Playoffs (including this year’s Packers-Cardinals overtime thriller with the non-flipping coin). He has only missed one postseason out of the seasons he’s been eligible for.
During the week and the offseason, he is a personal-injury attorney and partner at his law firm. He lives with his wife, Katie, in Omaha, Neb., where they are raising their two children, Maeve and Hudson.
Blakeman was a backup quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1983 to 1987, after which he began officiating high school football games. From there, he worked up to the Big 12 Conference, and was hired by the NFL in 2008 by VP of officiating Mike Pereira. Referee magazine had a profile feature on Blakeman in their February 2015 issue.
His Today show appearance is below, and for photos of Blakeman and his crew in action from Sunday, check out our photo gallery.
Image: Photo by Bill Sitzmann/Omaha Magazine. Football Zebras graphic by Ben Austro.