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Former NFL referee and officiating supervisor, Jerry Seeman, dies at 77



Former HL, LJ, R worked two Super Bowls

Jerry Seeman 1936-2013

Former referee and officiating supervisor, Jerry Seeman, died Sunday night, a half hour before his son, NFL line judge Jeff Seeman, (#45) worked the Broncos-Patriots Sunday Night Football game.  Jeff Seeman was informed of his father’s death after the ball game.


Jerry Seeman

According to the Pioneer Press report, Jeff Seeman commented, “He was a competitor.  He loved to figure out mathematical problems and football rules test questions. He was a walking rulebook.”  Seeman was diagnosed with renal cancer in 2010.  “He battled for 3½ years; eventually it located to the lungs, then two years ago it metastasized in the brain,” Jeff Seeman said.

In a statement distributed by the league, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Jerry modernized and improved NFL officiating during his 10 seasons leading the department. He was very proud of being a football official, and he always made the NFL proud through his skill, integrity, and professionalism.”

Seeman joined the National Football League in 1975 after officiating high school football and Big Ten football.  He worked as a head linesman and line judge until 1979, when the NFL appointed him to referee, replacing Don Wedge, who moved to the deep wings.  Amazingly, Seeman was named the alternate referee to Super Bowl XIV, in his first year as a referee.  Seeman worked several playoff games as a referee, but he was on the field in one of the most exciting playoff games as an alternate.  Seeman was alternate referee in the 1987 AFC Championship Game at Mile High Stadium.  Jim Tunney was the referee.  In the second half, field judge Dick Dolack had to leave a game with a leg injury.  Seeman came in for Dolack and served as the field judge for the rest of the game (There were two alternates per playoff game back then and Seeman was best suited to replace Dolack.).  Seeman was the official who ruled that the Broncos recovered The Fumble, that sent John Elway and company on to Super Bowl XXII (video).

After several seasons coming up short of the greatest officiating prize, the NFL assigned Seeman to Super Bowl XXIII.  After several years of blowout Super Bowls, Seeman was the referee for this instant classic.  Seeman then followed it up two years later working Super Bowl XXV, yet another instant classic.  That game was the last on field assignment for Seeman, as he retired from active officiating, and in 1991 at age 56 became the NFL’s senior director of officiating, replacing Art McNally.

As the NFL’s senior director of officiating, Seeman oversaw several technological advancements to help improve the calls on the field.  Seeman used comprehensive video tape presentations to help train officials to use proper mechanics and to call the game the way the NFL wanted it called.  Seeman was instrumental in helping bring back instant replay in 1999.  Officiating crews started working NFL training camp scrimmages and give rules talks to the players and coaches during Seeman’s tenure.  Seeman retired as senior director of officiating in 2001.  He served as a game observer for several years after leaving the NFL front office.

Jerry’s influence is seen in today’s game, as 51 active officials were hired by Seeman during his tenure.

Seeman is survived by his wife Marilyn, and sons Jeff, Michael and Jon.

Update: His obituary distributed to the media is below.

Jerry Seeman attended Plainview High School in Plainview, Minn., where he was a standout  athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. Later, while attending Winona State University in Winona, Minn., he played quarterback for three years and played basketball for two years before graduating in 1957 with a degree in mathematics. While he was at Winona State he met his loving wife Marilyn of 57 years.

Jerry began his career in education as a mathematics teacher and coach at Alexander Ramsey High School in Roseville, Minn. He then moved on to teach and coach basketball at Whitehall High School in Whitehall, Wisc.; Central High School in LaCrosse, Wisc.; and Fridley High School in Fridley, Minn. In 1969 Jerry moved into school administration as the assistant principal at Hopkins High School in Hopkins, Minn. From 1970 to 1990 he served as TIES coordinator/director of finance, personnel for the Fridley Public Schools.

In addition to working in education, Jerry began officiating football at the high school level in 1963. He went on to work small college football in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the North Central Conference. In 1972, he accepted a position as an official in the Big Ten Conference where he would stay until being hired by the NFL in 1975.

In 1970 after a successful career as a basketball coach, Jerry retired from coaching and became a basketball official working at the high school and small college level for the next 21 years. In addition to working on the court, he was also the Minnesota State High School League’s lead basketball rules clinician and supervisor.

Jerry began officiating in the NFL as a line judge and head linesman, and in 1979, he was promoted to the head referee position. During his career in the NFL, Jerry officiated 15 postseason games including Super Bowls XXIII (San Francisco vs. Cincinnati) and XXV (Buffalo vs. Giants). In 1991 he was named senior director of officiating for the NFL. Over the next eleven years he was credited with implementing the modern-day instant replay system and officials training program. On June 30, 2001, Jerry retired as Senior Director of Officiating and was later employed by the NFL as an observer.

Honors include the Winona State Hall of Fame, NFHS Hall of Fame, MSHSL Hall Fame, Sports Officials Medallion Award, Distinguished Alumnus Award Winona State University and NFFMN Legends Award. He was very active in Rotary and as a result of his service, was named a Paul Harris Fellow. Jerry was also a board member for the Unity Mercy Hospitals Foundation.

Jerry and Marilyn have three sons, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Son Jeff is currently an official in the NFL.

Jerry Seeman, age 77, died Sunday November 24th at his home in Blaine, Minnesota after a 3½ year battle with cancer.

Photo: National Association of Sports Officials

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?"