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With the players, officials are vying for the NFL in college invitational games

The three college all-star games provide an additional opportunity for the NFL officiating department to evaluate potential recruits in stripes.



Big Ten line judge Patrick Holt is mentored by NFL line judge Tim Podraza during a practice at Jets training camp (Ben Austro/Football Zebras photo)

The three college all-star games provide an additional opportunity for NFL teams to scout potential players for the upcoming draft. It also gives an opportunity for the NFL officiating department to evaluate potential recruits in stripes.

The officiating department selects which college officials work the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and the Senior Bowl. These are officials that they have already scouted in their college games. Vice president of development Wayne Mackie and scouting coordinator Dave Wyant oversee 65 regional scouts that grade college officials that are under consideration. Candidates are also subject to an extensive background check.

The officiating department also invites up to 40 officials to its Officiating Development Program, which give potential recruits the ability to work with current NFL officials at clinics, training camps, and a few preseason games. The ODP was created after the 2012 collective bargaining agreement, and since then every official that the NFL hired spent some time in the ODP.

The 2019 ODP squad will not be announced for a few months, but these invitational games give us some insight as to who is in the development pool.

All games are played with modified Pro Bowl rules. The game will follow the Pro Bowl rules which largely are aimed at player safety. Notably, there is only a kickoff at the beginning of the first and third quarters under special rules. All other possessions that would start with a kickoff begin with a snap at the 25-yard line. The end of each quarter terminates the possession in progress, and the team that takes the opening snap of the quarter alternates each quarter.

The extra-point conversions follow the NFL rules for snap location. Additionally, in the Senior Bowl only, all touchdowns scored in the second quarter can only attempt a 2-point conversion as a sponsor tie-in to Reese’s Go For Two promotion.

The crew utilizes an eighth official, however it is not the center judge used by the NCAA, but instead it is a middle judge, which the NFL has been testing in preseason games. The umpire is positioned in the offensive backfield, as has been the case in the NFL.

Jan. 26, 2019

Senior Bowl, 2:30 p.m. ET NFLN

The crew for the Senior Bowl is below, listed with with the seasons in the ODP and their current college conference. Officials who worked the practice sessions are listed after.

    ODP seasons College conference (2018)
R Duane Heydt ACC
U Terry Killens 2013-15*, 2016-18 American Athletic
DJ Chad Lorance 2018 SEC
LJ Tom Eaton 2017-18 Conference USA
FJ Clay Reynard 2013-14, 2018 Pac-12
SJ Nate Jones 2013-15*, 2016-18 Pac-12
BJ Tra Boger SEC
MJ Martin Hankins 2018 SEC

*Killens and Jones are former NFL players and were in a development program specifically for retired NFL players.

Practice officials:

  • Scott Campbell (Big 12)
  • Michael Dolce (Big Ten, 2018 ODP)
  • Frank LeBlanc (Big 12, 2018)
  • Wes Booker (SEC, 2018)
  • Joe Blubaugh (Big 12, 2018)
  • John Hoffman (ACC)
  • Maurice Pierre (Conference USA, 2018)
  • Glen Fucik (SEC, 2018)

Jan. 19, 2019

East-West Shrine Game, 3 p.m. ET NFLN

The crew for the East-West Shrine Game is as follows:

    ODP seasons College conference (2018)
R Jeff Heaser 2018 ACC
U William Thomas 2013-15*, 2018 American Athletic
DJ Brandon Cruse 2018 Big 12
LJ Patrick Holt 2018 Big Ten
FJ LaShell Nelson 2016-18 Conference USA
SJ Raymond Daniel 2018 Big Ten
BJ Grantis Bell 2018 SEC
MJ Jacques Hooper 2018 ACC

*Thomas is a former NFL player and was in a development program specifically for retired NFL players.

Heaser was the referee for last year’s Shrine Game.

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, 5 p.m. ET FS1

For the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, positions were not available, and are listed only where we have confirmed the assignment.

    ODP seasons College conference (2018)
R Adam Savoie 2017-18 American Athletic
  Max Causey 2018 Conference USA
  Justin Nelson 2016-18 Pac-12
  Alonso Ramsey  
  Greg Nelson  
SJ Lo Van Pham 2018 Big 12
MJ James Carter 2017-18 SEC

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)

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