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FeaturesHappy 80th birthday to former NFL referee Gerry Austin

Happy 80th birthday to former NFL referee Gerry Austin

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Happy 80th birthday to retired NFL side judge and referee Dr. Gerald “Gerry” Austin. The three time Super Bowl official was born December 4, 1940.

Austin worked in the NFL from 1982-2007 as a side judge and then as a referee beginning in the 1990 season. He wore number 112 his first two seasons, and then switched to number 34 after his crewmate Fritz Graf retired.

Austin got started officiating in his native North Carolina working basketball and football. He eventually worked his way up to calling Atlantic Coast Conference basketball and football. A college highlight for him was working the 1977 Orange Bowl.

The NFL hired Austin in 1982 and he worked on referee Gene Barth’s crew. Fritz Graf, the highly respected field (now back) judge mentored the new side judge.

During his 26-year career, Austin built a sparkling playoff record — a total of 23 playoff games. Seven games were as a side judge and the rest were as a referee. He worked 9 wild card games, 8 divisional games, 3 conference championships and Super Bowls XXIV, XXXI and XXXV.

Super Bowl XXIV was his last assignment as a side judge. The referee for that game, Dick Jorgensen became ill in the offseason (1990) and the NFL appointed Austin as referee. Jorgensen died in October of 1990.

Perhaps the most famous game Austin worked was the 1993 Wild Card game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers — The Comeback — which the Bills won 41-38, after trailing 35-3 in the third quarter.

On the field, Austin was known for being cool under fire.

Austin’s last game was the 2007 Divisional Playoff game in Indianapolis between the Colts and the San Diego Chargers.

Off the field, Austin earned his doctorate in education and was a school administrator for over 30 years.

Austin is paying his officiating knowledge forward as the supervisor of officials for Conference USA. In that role, he recommended that Sarah Thomas be hired into the NFL as the first female on the staff.

In addition to his work with college officials, Austin also worked as an officiating and rules expert for Monday Night Football. When Jon Gruden left the MNF booth to coach the Raiders, Austin joined him as to advise on coach’s challenges, which he continues to do this season.

We congratulate Dr. Austin on his milestone birthday and wish him the well on his special day.

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Mark Schultz
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?"

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