Football Zebras
HistoryThrowback Thursday: Retired referee Dick Hantak reflects on his career

Throwback Thursday: Retired referee Dick Hantak reflects on his career

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Referee Dick Hantak has been retired for 18 years, but he is still remembered for his work as a NFL official from 1978 to 2002. And, in 2019 the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame recognized that work and inducted him as a member.

Hantak worked as a teacher and as a basketball and baseball coach. He later took up basketball and football officiating. He worked his way up to the Big 8 football conference. In 1978, when the NFL expanded to seven person crews, Hantak was one of 17 new hires into the league as a line judge.

Hantak had a banner rookie year as he worked the first-ever NFC wild card game between the visiting Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

After a few years at line judge, Hantak moved to the deep wing, and then the NFL promoted him to referee for the 1987 season.

In his 25-year NFL career, Hantak was assigned to 23 playoff games: 3 at line judge, 6 at back judge (now called field judge), and 14 at referee. He worked a total of 8 Wild Card games, 9 Divisional Playoff games, 4 Conference Championships and Super Bowls XVII (at back judge) and XXVII. That was the Super Bowl where he and line judge Dick McKenzie had to rule on the Leon Lett fumble.

Hantak wore number 105 for most of his career. His number 105 allowed him a series of firsts. He was the first referee appointed with a number over 100. And he was the first referee to work a Super Bowl (XXVII) with a number over 100.

Hantak retired after the 2002 season. His final game was a divisional playoff between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets. In 2019, the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame inducted him. That evening Hantak talked about his career – including the infamous moment when Carolina Panthers mascot Sir Purr covered a live punt in the end zone.

Congratulations to Hantak on his honor, and enjoy insight from the veteran NFL official who was present for some of the most famous pro football moments in the 1980s and 1990s.

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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