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3-time Super Bowl official Don Hakes passes away

Don Hakes, a NFL official for 22 years and a three-time Super Bowl field judge and back judge passed away



Don Hakes, a NFL official for 22 years and a three-time Super Bowl field judge and back judge passed away on April 1, 2021 at the age of 87.

2021 has gotten off to a rough start as retired NFL officials Ron Botchan, Bob Boylston and Fred Wyant passed away in the first quarter of the new year.

Hakes and Jerry Markbreit officiated together off and on for over 40 years, beginning in high school and up through college and the pros. They started officiating in the 1950s together and formed a crew with two other high school officials who would also go on to officiate in the Big Ten. They also picked up future AFL and NFL official Cal Lepore. Needless to say, if that crew showed up at a high school game, it was going to be the best officiated game those kids ever had.

A graduate of Bradley University, Hakes worked his way up through the officiating ranks to the Big Ten conference. His last assignment was the Jan. 1, 1977, Rose Bowl. The NFL hired Hakes into the NFL for the 1977 season as a field judge (now called back judge). He wore number 96 for most of his career. He worked on crews lead by Jim Tunney, Bob Fredric, Red Cashion, Gerry Austin, and his old high school partner, Jerry Markbreit.

Hakes distinguished himself as a solid rules official who had good judgement and made his presence felt in the secondary. His curly red hair and distinctive features make him a well known non-referee in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

Don Hakes and Tom Sifferman (118) try to calm an irate John Elway.

On the field, Hakes worked a total of 21 playoff games in his 22-year career: five wild cards, six divisionals, seven conference championship games and Super Bowls XVI, XXX and XXXIII. Super Bowl XXXIII was his retirement game. The 14 year span between Super Bowl assignments was a record. Jeff Bergman currently holds the record between Super Bowl assignments at 22 years.

Hakes was part of one of the finest games I’ve ever seen officiated on October 17, 1994, between the Broncos and Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

Off the field Hakes was an educator and dean of students at Thornton Fractional North High School in the south Chicago suburbs.

Hakes also officiated small college basketball, including a few games at Wheaton College when I was an undergraduate there. I broadcast Wheaton basketball games for the student radio station at the time, and I was able to meet Hakes once after a game as he made his way out of the gym. The next season, he was working a Thursday night game at Wheaton. The Super Bowl was on Sunday. He was standing near my broadcast position watching the pregame warm ups. I called out and asked him if he was “working on Sunday.” Hakes properly didn’t respond to any off court comments (it was worth a shot), and the game went off without a hitch. I turned on Super Bowl XXX that Sunday, and sure enough, Hakes was working the game!

Our condolences to all who knew Hakes and loved him. The text of his obituary appears below.

Donald E. Hakes, 1933-2021

Donald E. Hakes, age 87, long time South Side of Chicago resident, passed away in his sleep on Thursday, April 1, 2021 in Glendale, AZ. Donald was born May 10, 1933 to the late Edgar and Marjory (Church) Hakes, in Chicago, IL.

The Community will remember Don as the dean of students for many years at Thornton Fractional North Highschool in Calumet City, IL. He also was an NFL official for 22 years who officiated Super Bowls XVI, XXX and XXXIII.

Funeral arrangements are entrusted to both West Resthaven Funeral Home in Glendale, AZ and Kuiper Funeral Home in Highland, IN.

A public visitation for Donald will be held Friday, April 9, 2021 from 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Kuiper Funeral Home, 9039 Kleinman Rd., Highland, IN 46322. A funeral service will take place on Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 11:30 AM, at Kuiper Funeral Home followed by burial at Assumption Catholic Cemetery, 19500 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Glenwood, IL 60425.

In order to safeguard one another and the community, please practice wearing a mask or facial covering while in attendance at the funeral home or cemetery.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Hakes family.

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?"