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Former referee Mike Carey named 2022 NFLRA Honoree

Former referee and CBS Sports officiating analyst Mike Carey, who officiated in the NFL for 24 seasons, was selected by the National Football League Referees Association as their annual honoree. The NFLRA announced Carey’s selection last week.

The award is given to an individual for their work on the field and in service to the union.

In a press release, Carey, 72, remarked: “Officiating is reflective of life. It teaches how to be a representative citizen of the U.S.: Be fair to all and make decisions from a neutral mindset. Beginning as a player, I value playing the game on the edge, while respecting the rules. A big benefit from my time with CBS was learning how strong the football community is and how much players and coaches truly respect what we do as officials.”

Carey’s officiating career began in 1972 in San Diego, after a college playing career at the running back position while at Santa Clara University from 1967 to 1970. He was hired by the Western Athletic Conference in 1985, and officiated 3 bowl games as a college football official. In 1990, he was hired by the NFL as a side judge, and was assigned the number 94. As a side judge, Carey served on crews led by Pat Haggerty, Jerry Markbreit, and Ed Hochuli. In 1995, Carey was promoted to the referee position, becoming just the second Black referee in league history. He quickly became one of the league’s most recognizable and well-respected white hats.

In the 2007 season, Carey was assigned to Super Bowl XLII, becoming the first Black referee to be assigned to a Super Bowl. His uniform from that game sits on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

During this game, Carey ruled on what has become one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history: the Eli Manning to David Tyree “Helmet Catch”. “As soon as [Manning] set up to pass, the pocket disintegrated, just collapsed, and my vision just got swallowed up by the players. So, I darted around to the left side and there’s just a mad struggle to get him and pull him back.” Carey held his whistle as Manning was facing defensive pressure, and was able to evade a sack to make the pass that led to the improbable completion. Looking downfield at back judge Scott Helverson, Carey was confident in Helverson’s ruling, just by visual confirmation. “[Helverson] looked back at me, and he didn’t even have to signal it, I knew that he had a catch and there was no doubt.” Carey’s decision to be slow on his whistle was determined by our team in 2015 to be the best call in Super Bowl history.

In the game’s aftermath, while mic’d up for NFL Films, Carey soaked in the postgame celebration. NFL Films even captured the crew’s own postgame celebration, a raw display of pride and excitement, that the casual fan never gets to see.

By the end of his 24-year career, Carey racked up 18 postseason assignments, including 10 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 2 Conference Championships, and Super Bowl XLII. Following the 2013 season, Carey left the field to become the first officiating analyst for CBS Sports on NFL on CBS broadcasts, and served in that role for two seasons.

Off the field, Carey is the co-founder of Seirus Innovations, a snow-sports business which he started in the late 1970s. A modern-day Thomas Edison, Carey holds over 50 patents for products that are used for cold weather sporting activities.

The NFLRA honored Carey at their annual meeting last weekend. Congratulations to Mike Carey for being named the 2022 NFLRA Honoree; just another honor to add to his illustrious career.

Pro Football Hall of Fame photo: Football Zebras/Cam Filipe

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Cameron Filipe
Cam Filipe is a graduate student at Boston University and has been involved in football officiating for ten years. Cam is entering his second season as a high school football official. This is his seventh season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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