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2023 Conference Championships

Smith and Blakeman are Conference Championship referees

Shawn Smith and Clete Blakeman are the referees for the 2023 Conference Championships.



Football Zebras exclusive

Football Zebras has confirmed the assignment of referees Shawn Smith and Clete Blakeman to the Conference Championship games on Sunday. Smith will be in Baltimore for the AFC matchup between the Chiefs and Ravens; Blakeman will be in San Francisco for the clash between the Lions and 49ers.

All times are Eastern.

The prior playoff experience that is listed for the crew chief includes his service as an NFL official, including as referee and any other crew position (excluding alternate assignments).

Sunday, Jan. 29

AFC Championship Game: Chiefs at Ravens, 3:00 p.m. CBS Paramount+

Shawn Smith is the referee, who is in his 9th season and 6th as referee. This is Smith’s 8th postseason assignment, including 5 Wild Card Playoffs, a Divisional Playoff, and 2 Conference Championships.

He got started as a flag football official at Eastern Michigan University. Smith was recruited to run track and play football at EMU before transferring to Ferris State University.

At the collegiate level, Smith officiated in Conference USA in 2009, the Mid-American Conference from 2009 to 2012 and the Big Ten Conference from 2012 to 2014. He worked at the back judge position during this time, and completed his first full season as a Big Ten referee in 2014, when the NFL came calling for the 2015 season. Smith worked the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl and the 2015 Senior Bowl while a college football official.

The NFL promoted him to the referee position in 2018 after referee Terry McAulay left the NFL to join NBC.

Smith, 50, is a corporate manager for a major health insurer in the Detroit metro area.

      Yrs 2023 crew College Occupation
R 14 Shawn Smith 9   Ferris State finance
U 81 Roy Ellison 21 Hill Savannah State IT engineer
DJ 6 Jerod Phillips 8 Martin Northeastern State real estate agent
LJ 45 Jeff Seeman 22 Smith Minnesota brokerage sales
FJ 33 Nate Jones 5 Cheffers Rutgers firefighter/EMT FORMER NFL PLAYER
SJ 36 Anthony Jeffries 6 Rogers Alabama-Birmingham medical sales
BJ 105 Dino Paganelli 18 Smith Aquinas College educator
RO   Mike Wimmer 21 Smith NYU producer
RA RA Sebrina Brunson 4 Smith Florida Atlantic case specialist
ALT R Clay Martin 9   Oklahoma Baptist retired high school administrator and basketball coach
ALT U Bryan Neale 10 Smith Indiana sales consultant
ALT DJ Kent Payne 20 Rogers Nebraska Wesleyan agribusinessman
ALT LJ Tripp Sutter 5 Wrolstad Nebraska biopharmaceutical rep
ALT FJ John Jenkins 10 Eck St. Mary’s sales executive
ALT SJ Jimmy Buchanan 15 Vinovich South Carolina State food service director
ALT BJ Greg Steed 21 Hill Howard computer systems analyst
ALT RO Mark Butterworth 7 Vinovich Walsh non-profit COO

NFC Championship Game: Lions at 49ers, 6:30 p.m. Fox

Clete Blakeman is the referee, who is in his 16th season and 14th as referee. This is Blakeman’s 14th postseason assignment, including 4 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 4 Conference Championships, and Super Bowl 50. His Super Bowl assignment was as a referee.

Before becoming an official, Blakeman was a second-string quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1984 to 1987. He started a handful of games, most notably a 70-0 shutout of the Kansas Jayhawks in 1986.

Blakeman, 59, came to the NFL from the Big 12 Conference in 2008. After a couple of seasons at field judge, he was promoted to referee in 2010.

Blakeman is a personal-injury attorney in Omaha, where he lives with his wife and two children.

      Yrs 2023 crew College Occupation
R 34 Clete Blakeman 16   Nebraska attorney
U 20 Barry Anderson 17 Torbert North Carolina State builder/developer
DJ 8 Dana McKenzie 16 Blakeman Toledo claims adjuster
LJ 59 Rusty Baynes 14 Kemp Auburn-Montgomery general manager, safety services
FJ 90 Anthony Flemming 4 Hussey Texas A&M-Commerce senior auditor
SJ 125 Chad Hill 6 Hochuli Mississippi medical sales
BJ 27 Grantis Bell 4 Wrolstad West Virginia school counselor
RO   Chad Adams 6 Blakeman Cincinnati operations
RA RA Gerald Frye 4 Eck Gannon veterinarian
ALT R Shawn Hochuli 10   Claremont financial advisor
ALT U Carl Paganelli 24 Hussey Michigan State retired federal probation officer
ALT DJ Frank LeBlanc 4 Hussey Lamar Institute of Technology neighborhood services manager
ALT LJ Mark Stewart 6 Novak Pittsburg State rancher
ALT FJ Mearl Robinson 7 Hill Air Force retired U.S. Air Force instructor
ALT SJ Dominique Pender 4 Clark Howard trade support, finance and banking
ALT BJ Todd Prukop 15 Blake Cal State-Fullerton medical sales representative
ALT RO Bob Hubbell 4 Clark Texas A&M steel sales
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    January 23, 2024 at 4:26 pm

    I see Shawn Smith worked the 2018 NFC Championship between the Vikings and Eagles, what was the other one? The article states he’s worked two conference championships. Thanks!

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