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Outside the Stripes

Super Bowl assignment a triumph for Vinovich on many levels



Referee overcomes life threatening illness and long layoff

You might excuse Bill Vinovich if he feels a little extra emotional on Sunday.  Eight years ago, the thought of working a Super Bowl was the last thing on the referee’s mind.  In April 2007, Vinovich’s goal was to survive for 48 hours.

Bill Vinovich joined the NFL in 2001 as a side judge and was made referee in 2004.  After the 2006 season, he worked a playoff game and laid the groundwork for 2007.  Vinovich was working out and felt severe back pain.  He went to the emergency room and discovered his life was in danger.  He had an aortic aneurysm so severe, physicians later said that he had a two-percent chance of surviving 48-hours.  Vinovich survived, but the NFL did not clear him to officiate.  His on field career was over.

Vinovich spent the next five years as a replay official and a regional officiating supervisor.  All the while, he wanted to get back on the field.  Finally, doctors performed reconstructive surgery on his aorta, and the NFL gave him permission to return to the field.

Peter King was granted an interview with Vinovich this past week and you can read more about it here

For most officials, just making the NFL is a personal triumph.  Being assigned a Super Bowl is a triumph beyond a triumph.  But for Vinovich, triumph is almost inadequate to describe the last eight years of his life.


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?"