Lo van Pham, the side judge on referee Clete Blakeman’s crew, is not only starting his first season as an NFL official in 2022, but is also making history as the first Asian-American game official in the league’s long history — a history which has seen over 1,300 men and women officiate at football’s highest level. Van Pham was hired in May as part of the new incoming class of 10 on-field officials for the 2022 season, and previously worked in the Big 12 Conference before joining the NFL.
Van Pham, 49, was born in Pakse, Laos, and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1979, settling in Amarillo, Texas. Prior to moving to America, van Pham, along with his two brothers, lived in refugee camps with their parents in different parts of the Philippines, Laos, and Thailand for 3 years.
He played football at Amarillo Palo Duro High School in the late 1980s. After attending the University of Colorado, van Pham began officiating youth and high school football in the early 2000s. He was hired by the Big 12 Conference in 2015 and officiated there for 7 seasons. As an official in the Big 12, van Pham has worked numerous bowl games, including the Fiesta Bowl, the Peach Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl.
In addition to college football, van Pham officiated as a field judge in all three of the new-era developmental leagues: the AAF, the XFL, and the USFL. He was the field judge for this season’s USFL Championship Game between the Philadelphia Stars and Birmingham Stallions in Canton, Ohio.
Off the field, van Pham is a civil structure engineer and project manager in the Amarillo, Texas area, where his lives with his wife Kelly and his two sons.
Greg Sherman, a sports videojournalist in the San Antonio area, was granted an interview with van Pham after he was hired by the NFL.