The NFL Referees Association (NFLRA), the union representing NFL officials, recently honored retired umpire Ron Botchan with the 2019 Honoree Award. The award recognizes an official for on-field accomplishments and support of the NFLRA.
“Ron exemplifies everything NFL officials strive to be,” said NFLRA Executive Director Scott Green in a news release. “He had a stellar on-field career, one of the best at the umpire position as evidenced by his numerous post-season assignments. But his love for officiating is perhaps best illustrated by the years spent working with our newer officials on the finer details of the game. His selfless dedication to sharing his knowledge and expertise has benefited countless officials.”
Botchan worked on the field for 22-years, beginning in 1980 as a line judge and from 1981 on as an umpire. He wore three numbers during his career: number 12 as line judge, number 22 as an umpire in 1981, and then number 110 for the rest of his career (I’ll explain all these numbers in an article later this summer).
Botchan was a star athlete at Occidental College. After serving in the Marines, he signed to play for the Los Angeles Chargers and then the Houston Oilers for the first two seasons of the American Football League. He had to retire as a player before the 1962 season due to a knee injury.
After playing football, Botchan coached football at Los Angeles City College and began officiating football in 1972. He had a near-meteoric-rise to the top ranks, becoming a Pac-8 (Now Pac-12) official in the late 1970s. All of his major officiating experience was at the umpire position.
Once he took up officiating, Botchan continued at Los Angeles City College as a professor of fitness and health education.
Best rookie performance ever?
Botchan applied to the NFL at the recommendation of retired referee Norm Schachter. In the book The Third Team, Botchan recounted that supervisor Art McNally asked Botchan if he would mind working as a line judge in his first season as there were no openings at umpire. Botchan never worked as a line judge, but accepted the offer. He got a crash course in working the wings from other NFL officials and was ready to start the 1980 season on referee Jerry Seeman’s crew.
Botchan thought he was having a good year, but he knew that rookie officials rarely, if ever, got a playoff game. McNally called him after the 1980 regular season and told him that he graded number one at the line judge position for the entire year. Imagine that — a rookie official who had never worked as a line judge, grading out number one! McNally assigned Botchan to the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns — the infamous “Red Right 88” game.
You would be hard-pressed to come up with a rookie NFL official who had a better year than Botchan had in 1980.
One of the best
Botchan moved to umpire beginning in 1981 and served on crews lead by Gordon McCarter, Fred Silva, Dick Jorgensen, Jerry Seeman, Howard Roe, Phil Luckett, Tony Corrente, and Bill Leavy. In 22-years, he officiated a whopping 25-playoff games, including six wild card, six divisional and eight conference championship games. He is one of five officials assigned to five Super Bowls (XX, XXVII, XXIX, XXXI and XXXIV).
After retiring from the field, Botchan continued to serve the NFL as an umpire coach and he continues to mentor new NFL officials.
Congratulations to Ron Botchan receiving the 2019 NFL Honoree Award.