In 2022, the Pro Football Hall of Fame finally did the right thing and fully enshrined an official. We were thrilled when Art McNally received his bust in Canton. But, that is just one of several officials who need their gold jacket.
As we have pointed out in the past, Canton lags far behind its contemporaries, which started enshrining officials four generations ago. If the Pro Football Hall of Fame adds one official every three years and the Baseball Hall of Fame stands pat, it will take 27 years for pro football officials catch up with their umpiring brethren.
Obviously, in the history of pro football, there have been many officials who far exceeded their peers and are also worthy of inclusion at the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor to the game. Officials’ names are not necessarily household names, and, particularly, really good ones are anonymous.
Since 2018, Football Zebras has listed officials we feel worthy of a bust in Canton. We will present the list to the Hall of Fame to help the contributors committee in selecting future officials.
- 2018: Art McNally
- 2019: Jerry Markbreit, Jim Tunney, Burl Toler, and Stan Javie
- 2020: Jerry Bergman Sr., Ron Botchan, Tom Kelleher, and Bob Beeks
- 2021: Ben Montgomery, Jerry Seeman, Tony Veteri Sr., and Ron Gibbs
- 2022: Jack Fette and Norm Schachter
This year, we nominate two more officials who we feel the Hall of Fame should consider: Ed Hochuli and Dean Look.
Back judge 1990-91, referee 1992-2017http://gty.im/866193870
If you stopped a casual NFL fan on the street, in any American city, and asked them to name an NFL referee, 9 out of 10 of those fans would say Ed Hochuli. One of the most recognizable officiating figures in all of sport, Hochuli transcends generations of football fans, having officiated for 28 seasons — which is in the top 2% of tenure among all officials in the league’s 103-year history.
Before starting his officiating career, Hochuli played football on both sides of the ball for Canyon Del Oro High School in Oro Valley, Ariz., before stepping up as a linebacker for the University of Texas at El Paso, playing there from 1969 to 1972. While playing for the UTEP Miners, Hochuli earned All-Western Athletic Academic Honors, but, didn’t always escape the eye of the officials.
Hochuli’s officiating career did not start with football, but with baseball. While in college, he umpired Little League Baseball from 1970 to 1973. Once he moved on from baseball, Hochuli started officiating high school football in the Tuscon area. He worked high school games for 13 years, and during that time, in 1980, Hochuli was hired by the Big Sky Conference as a line judge. In 1983, Hochuli moved up to the Pac-10 Conference (now the Pac-12), and officiated 7 seasons, also at the line judge position.
Directly recruited by then-supervisor of NFL officiating and current Pro Football Hall of Famer, the late great Art McNally, Hochuli was hired by the NFL for the 1990 season at the back judge position, where he was placed on the crew of the late referee Howard Roe. “Before the ’89 season, I put in an application to the NFL. I was young and I figured if I got in the NFL, it would be six, seven years later,” Hochuli told Referee in 2016. “And so I put in the application and just never thought about it again. I thought I was too young and too green and not good enough and I never heard a word that anyone was scouting.
“So when I got a phone call from the league after the 1989 season, I was just absolutely flabbergasted. I thought they made a mistake, that they had me mixed up with somebody else.”
Hochuli told Football Zebras in 2018 that Art McNally was instrumental in his promotion to the referee position. “Art hired me into the NFL as a back judge, and then two years later, taught me to be a crew chief in the World League of American Football, where he was the Supervisor of Officials in 1992. It was then that I was moved to head referee in the NFL. On a personal level, I owe my career to Art McNally.” With two NFL seasons and a World League season at white hat, Hochuli was promoted to referee in 1992.
Hochuli’s first experience in the public spotlight came on Thanksgiving Day in 1993, when his crew was assigned to a game between the Dolphins and Cowboys, with a rare layer of snowfall covering the field of Texas Stadium. With 15 seconds remaining, Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich was attempting a game winning 40-yard field goal, which was partially blocked. The ball dribbled inside the 5-yard line, where it was touched by Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett, and subsequently recovered by Dolphins offensive lineman Jeff Dellenbach.
Under the rules at the time, the field goal — being a scrimmage kick — was treated as a punt, and Lett’s touching was ruled a muff. Dellenback recovered the ball at the 1-yard line, and slid into the end zone, but cannot advance a muff, so by rule, Miami would be awarded the ball at the 1-yard line with 3 seconds remaining. Stoyanovich was able to successfully kick a 19-yard field goal for a Miami victory.
“I went out and I flipped that mike on to explain. We’re in Texas Stadium in Dallas. You could have heard a pin drop in there. I can’t remember another time when I ever heard it so quiet in a football stadium. Everybody was just hanging on every word,” Hochuli said.
It was on that cold Thanksgiving Day in Irving, Texas where the king of the microphone was born. Hochuli became known for his verbose explanations of elaborate rulings. While it bothered some, the intention was to inform the fans of which of the rulebook’s intricacies dictated the ruling on the field. His way with words was a direct reflection of his knowledge of the rules and his commitment to understanding all of the ins and outs of the most complex rulebook in American professional sports.
I attended a game at Gillette Stadium between the 49ers and Patriots in 2012, where after a replay review, Hochuli announced the ruling on the field would stand — the call benefitting San Francisco. The stadium crowd erupted in boos, and before he continued, Hochuli paused and put up his hands, so as to tell the crowd to settle down, because he had more to say. You would never see another referee do that during an announcement, but that was Ed Hochuli.
Hochuli, 72, was an officiating rock star, but he did more than just talk the talk. He also walked the walk. His longevity as a top-tier, respected official was marked by the privilege of officiating 474 National Football League games. Included in that figure are his 27 postseason assignments, which include 11 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 9 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XXXII and XXXVIII. These 27 playoff games rank Hochuli as 2nd all-time in postseason officiating assignments, one game short of the record held by the late umpire Al Conway.
During his NFL officiating career, Hochuli did more than just arbitrate on the field. In 1992, he created the definitive manual of penalty enforcement, called the Hopperbook, which is based on placing a specific penalty in one of 15 different categories, or hoppers, and applying the enforcement that belongs to that hopper. Examples of hoppers include a foul before the snap, double fouls, double fouls before a change of possession, double fouls after a change, and double foul/double change. The Hopperbook is revised yearly to remain current with rules changes, and is still used by officials today.
Hochuli was also known as a mentor to younger and up-and-coming officials, both during and after his career. Since Hochuli became a referee in 1992, there have been 12 officials who served at least one season on Hochuli’s crew who later went on to become referees themselves. This represents almost half of all officials promoted to referee in 1993 or later. Additionally, 7 of the last 10 promoted referees — who officiated at the same time as Hochuli — served on his crew at some point.
Following the 2017 season, and fresh off an NFC Championship Game assignment, Hochuli retired from the NFL. His retirement was met with a bittersweet sadness among football fans, and was the most noteworthy officiating retirement in recent memory. After hanging up his stripes, Hochuli served on a panel of six expert judges for the NFL’s Way to Play Award, and has also appeared in Officiating Department videos explaining rules changes and points of emphasis.
A conversation about NFL officiating would not be complete without mentioning Ed Hochuli. While known by many for his physique or long-windedness, he was one of the league’s best officials on the field, and one of the best mentors and teachers of officiating off the field. His remarkable on-field career spanned three decades, and his lasting impact is still felt today, 5 seasons after his retirement. For these reasons, we proudly nominate Ed Hochuli for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Line judge 1972-1977, side judge and back judge 1978-2000http://gty.im/515128058
Dean Look had a great seat at some of the most famous NFL games over his 29-year career as an NFL official. And, he had the honor of calling one of the most famous plays in NFL history.
But, before he wore the stripes, Dean Look had an excellent baseball and football playing career. The Lansing, Michigan native was a star player in high school and went on be an All-American quarterback at Michigan State University. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1960, but didn’t play. The Chicago White Sox drafted him in 1961, and he appeared in three games for the big league franchise. After his big-league stint, Look signed with the New York Titans (now Jets) in 1962 and appeared in one game.
After Look’s playing career ended, he took up football officiating in his home state of Michigan, working up through high school and college ranks. Finally, the NFL came calling in 1972, and Look joined the league as a line judge on Tommy Bell’s crew. He wore 49 on his uniform, and number nine in the 1979-81 numbering system. Look also worked on crews lead by referees Pat Haggerty, Gene Barth, Gordon McCarter, Dale Hamer, Tom Dooley and Johnny Grier.
Look worked 6 wild card playoffs, 11 divisional playoffs, 6 conference championships and Super Bowls XIII, XV and XXVII. His final game was the Raiders-Patriots divisional playoff game that extended into overtime as a result of the Tuck Rule.
But, Look’s NFL career got off to a rocky start. He almost quit in his first preseason game between the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, before he was working with his regular crew. According to the book The Third Team, Look applied the college rule and blew his whistle to rule a Patriots ball carrier down when the runner slipped. As the runner got up, Dick Butkus of the Bears hit the ball carrier. Look then threw an unnecessary roughness flag on Butkus enraging the veteran linebacker. According to Look, things went downhill from there. Look told author Richard Lister that he failed to stop the clock for the two-minute warning and shot the gun signalling the end of the half once time expired. But the Patriots signaled for a fair catch on the half-ending punt. The Patriots opted for an untimed fair-catch kick. Referee Fred Wyant and umpire Joe Connell had to work hard to keep both teams from running off the field after Look shot the gun ending the half.
Look said he went back into the locker room and started to undress. He was ready to quit. But, Connell and Wyant told Look stories about their first game disasters and got Look in the right frame of mind to continue the second half — and continue with his career.
In 1978, the NFL expanded to crews of seven and added the side judge position. Look became one of the first side judges in the NFL and was the first side judge in Super Bowl history, when he was worked Super Bowl XIII.
During the late 1970s and into the 1980s, Look’s sideline partner in the regular season and several big playoff games was Jerry Bergman. Those two were fearless officials who handled their sidelines firmly and fairly.
While he called several exciting Super Bowls, Look’s most famous call happened in the 1981 NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers were on the rise and ready to dethrone “America’s Team” of the 1970s. The game featured a dramatic ending when Joe Montana threw a high pass into the end zone (some thought he was throwing it away).
In later interviews, Look recalls having to be looking three different places during the play: sideline, end line and catching a glimpse of Montana out of the pocket taking off the illegal contact foul.
One of Look’s traits that served him well on the sideline was his dry sense of humor. Look told NFL Films a story about a confrontation with Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. Shula was upset with Look about several calls. After a touchdown Shula gave Look an obscene arm gesture. Look properly flagged Shula for unsportsmanlike conduct enforced on the kickoff. As Look was in his position ready for the kickoff, Shula came up behind him and said, “You know, Dean, I was just joking.” Look replied, “I was too.”
In 2018, the NFL Referees Association honored Look. In a news release at the time, NFLRA executive director Scott Green said Look helped mentor him as his career started. Green said, “Dean was always generous with his time, spending countless hours working with younger officials on the nuances of the game. He loved officiating and wanted to share the knowledge he’d gained so that we could all benefit from his experience.”
Starting his NFL career in 1972, Look had to miss one season in 1987 for a leave of absence. He was ready to begin his 30th season in the fall of 2002, but an off-season physical revealed heart problems requiring bypass surgery. After a successful surgery, Look chose to retire and still enjoys life today at age 85.
It is safe to say that when the NFL created the side judge position, Look helped set the standard for 7th member of the officiating crew and was generous with his time in helping train fellow officials to the position specifically and life in the NFL in general.
For his outstanding career on the field and for his generosity in mentoring his fellow officials, we proudly nominate Dean Look for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.