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Former NFL line judge Phares enjoying ‘normal’ weekends



Ron Phares completes first season of retirement

For 43 years Ron Phares chased football players on fields all over the country.  This past season Phares, 69, enjoyed watching football games instead of officiating the contests.  Phares, along with Tom Barnes, retired just before the start of the 2012 season.

Phares (who wore uniform number 10)  joined the NFL in 1985 and was a line judge and head linesman for 27 years.  He officiated on crews lead by Dick Jorgensen, Gene Barth, Tom Dooley, Tom White, and Alberto Riveron.  When he retired, he was the most senior official on the staff.  “I never missed a game.  I feel fortunate and blessed,” Phares says.  Phares career highlights include being the head linesman for Super Bowl XXVII, and Super Bowl XXIX, and the line judge for Super Bowl XXXVI. 

Phares has high praise for his first referee, Dick Jorgensen.  “He worked one Super Bowl, but when I saw him call a game I thought, ‘This guy could work it every year,'” Phares says. 

Chuck Knoll and Tom Landry were coaching rivals when Phares broke into the league and he observes that many things changed while he was on the field.  “The technology increased.  When I started we looked at 16-millimeter game film.  Instant replay has worked well.  We love to get the calls right,” Phares says.  He continues, “The players of today are bigger and stronger (compared to when he started) and the game is totally different.”

Phares wishes that fans would recognize that when they boo and cuss at the officials, they are screaming at a human being.  “We make mistakes — fortunately not too many.  We strive very hard.  The NFL puts our standard at 97 to 98-percent accuracy.  Quite honestly, brain surgeons don’t operate that high,” he comments.  Phares also says that officials don’t need to be full-time employees because they already work full-time hours during the season and after the season studying the rules and working to improve their skills.

Phares worked on the sidelines his entire career and had to deal with some volatile coaches.  When asked how he could work with all that noise behind him, Phares explains, “Our concentration level is so high we learn to block it out.  The quietest time for me was during the game.  I spent three hours in silent concentration.”  The sideline decorum improved in the years he officiated.  He adds, “The coaches have a job to do.  There was a mutual respect.”

Phares lives in the Charlotte , N.C., area, and he knew it was time to retire.  “We all get older and we all get slower.  It was time.  I want to live long enough to do what normal people do on the weekends.  I’ll miss the guys and the games.  I won’t miss the travel.  I never wanted to work too long and hurt the crew.  I’ve had my day,” Phares concludes.  He also saluted his family for supporting his officiating which includes a lot of time commitments away from family. 

Phares will stay in contact with officiating by helping observe college officials for Conference USA and speaking at officiating camps the clinics.

Congratulations to Ron Phares for a successful NFL officiating career!

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?"