Football Zebras
2016LJ Tony Veteri and HL John McGrath retire

LJ Tony Veteri and HL John McGrath retire

Tony Veteri

Tony Veteri has retired from the NFL. This was Veteri’s 25th season in the NFL, although it was cut short to injury. Veteri has been out since Week 9.

Veteri’s father, the late Tony Veteri Sr., worked 23 pro football seasons–first in the AFL and then the NFL as a head linesman. He officiated four Super Bowls.

The New Jersey native joined the NFL as a head linesman in 1992. He initially wore uniform number 52, but took his father’s number 36 when it came open. 

Veteri wasn’t quick to follow his dad into officiating. He started out coaching sports.. He recalled getting his start in an article to The Ridgefield Press:

By the time I was about 28-30 years old I looked at what my dad was doing and I thought to myself ‘It looks like he’s having a lot of fun doing that.’ At the time I was coaching high school football. So, I started out by reffing some Pop Warner games. I coached a team that played on Friday night, and then I would ref on Saturday morning. I did both coaching and reffing for as long as I could but then it began to conflict, so I stopped coaching and started reffing only.

Veteri worked his way up the ladder and officiated in the USFL and the Arena Football League and the World League of American Football. That’s where he caught the eye of Art McNally who scouted Veteri and got him into the NFL. Over his career, Veteri worked 15 playoff games, including three conference championship games and Super Bowl XXXV.

Off the field, Veteri is a physical education teacher.

John McGrath

Week 17 marked the last regular season game for head linesman John McGrath. He joined the NFL in 2002. He has been a head linesman his entire career. He wore uniform number 120, and then switched to number 5 later in his career. His brother, Bobby McGrath, worked in the NFL for nine seasons, but left the field for the replay booth by the time John came to the league.

McGrath worked several playoff and conference championship games in his career and was the head linesman for Super Bowl XLIV.

After playing football for the University of Kentucky, McGrath played pro softball and started officiating high school football games. Off the football field, John is a co-owner of a transportation company in Louisville, Ky.

Early in John’s career, he made a move that could have been career suicide, but he says keeping his word was more important and, he thinks, ultimately got him the NFL job. McGrath tells KyForward:

“I was approached by the supervisor of officials from SICOA (Southern Independent Collegiate Officials Association which worked with the independent schools like Miami, Florida State, Louisville, South Carolina, Memphis, among others) and he offered me a spot with a full-time schedule. He said he would give me a week to decide. So, after talking to many people, I decided a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush and accepted.
 
“Well, guess who calls in February and gave me 24-hour to make a decision, the SEC. Well, it didn’t take long because I had already given the SICOA my word and that was final. I still think this helped me get into the NFL because in my interview that was the first question they asked. It’s called integrity.”

Unfortunately, the SICOA folded the next year and the SEC was not interested in him any more. McGrath eventually was hired in the old Big East Conference and worked 10 bowl games, and worked in the Arena Football League, NFL Europe and the short-lived XFL before going to the NFL.

A third McGrath brother is in the officiating fraternity. Kavin now is an official in the Atlantic Coast Conference and John’s son has gotten a start calling high school football games–so there may be more McGraths wearing the pro uniform.

Football Zebras congratulates Tony Veteri Jr. and John McGrath on their successful NFL careers and we wish them the best in the next chapter of their lives.

Photos: Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans

Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, “Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?”

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