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Referee Ed Hochuli is ending his 28-year NFL career

Ed Hochuli, the most recognizable officiating figure, bar none, to mainstream fans in NFL history, has decided to retire at the conclusion of the 2017 season.



Ed Hochuli, the most recognizable officiating figure, bar none, to mainstream fans in NFL history, has decided to retire. Senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron confirmed on his new Twitter feed that Hochuli, along with Jeff Triplette, will not be returning for the 2018 season — something which had been swirling in the rumor mill all season. Hochuli is known in equal parts for his informative, but lengthy, announcements over the public address system, for which he accrued over three minutes of air time in a wild card playoff game in 2015; as well as his workout regimen that has resulted in a recognizable physique among officials.

To say he is a “rock star” in the officiating world would be entirely accurate, but it would gloss over an entire career of accomplishment.

A 39-year old Hochuli was recruited from the Pacific 10 Conference by the venerable officiating supervisor Art McNally, and was hired by the league in 1990, the same year that Jerry Seeman assumed the reigns of the officiating department from McNally. 

Hochuli told Football Zebras in January that McNally was instrumental in becoming an NFL referee. “Art hired me into the NFL as a back judge, and then two years later, taught me to be a crew chief (referee) in the World League of American Football, where he was the Supervisor of Officials in 1992. It was then that I was moved to head referee in the NFL. On a personal level, I owe my career to Art McNally.” With two NFL seasons and a World League season under his belt, Hochuli was promoted to referee in 1992.

Hochuli-245x336While performance grades are not public knowledge, Hochuli’s perennial playoff assignments revealed his consistently high marks. Hochuli missed a playoff assignment only two of his eligible seasons (his rookie season and his first year as crew chief are not playoff eligible by rule). Hochuli had not been assigned to the Pro Bowl until the 2012 season, because officials with playoff assignments are excluded from Pro Bowl assignments with few exceptions. Last season’s NFC Championship Game was his 27th postseason assignment, the most of any active official, which include 11 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 9 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XXXII and XXXVIII. He was one of the handful of officials who received two non-Super Bowl postseason assignments, and was the first referee since since Walt Anderson and Bill Carollo in 2004 to have multiple non-Super Bowl assignments in a postseason.

Off the field, Hochuli is a partner in the Phoenix-area law firm Jones, Skelton & Hochuli. He turned 67 last Christmas Day, and currently lives in San Diego.

Ed’s son Shawn will be taking his white hat next season. In 2014, Shawn was hired by the NFL from the Pac-12. They had the opportunity to work on the same crew during the 2013 preseason when Shawn was on the advanced development training program. The younger Hochuli was also a crew chief in the Pac-12.

There are numerous stories to tell about Hochuli’s career, but on the occasion of his retirement, it seems appropriate to return to the time when he was first in the spotlight on Thanksgiving Day 1993. In his second season as referee, and during a time the NFL had abandoned replay, Hochuli and his crew (including future referee Mike Carey) had to sort out a blunder by Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett, who touched a blocked field goal, making it a live ball.

Football Zebras wishes the best of luck to Ed in his future years, and we thank him for all the memories over the last 28 NFL seasons.

Cameron Filipe contributed to this report.

Photo: Jones, Skelton & Hochuli

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)