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NFL referee pays a visit to Rockford’s Jr. referee program

“It’s great to have somebody that’s reached the highest level of the officiating profession come back and participate in our Rockford program.”
Published: Jul. 3, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “You just really have to be on your cause,” said referee Josh Streeter. “That’s the most important thing right there knowing the book, knowing every rule front and back.”

Streeter officiates his first flag football game Saturday afternoon taking what he’s learned in the classroom and translating it onto the field.

“I know a little bit of the game, but I’m still learning while I do this too, so I think it’s developing for the little kids as well as referees and parents as well if you grab the rule book,” Streeter said.

The football game is apart of the Rockford Park District’s Jr. Referee Program. To support Streeter and his fellow refs in training, NFL referee Shawn Smith paid a visit to Rockford to give the guys a few pro tips.

“I heard his story and how he came through the levels, and it kind of applies to us, because any of us could do that if we wanted to or if we put our mind to it,” said referee Preston Schuelke.

Smith is only the sixth, black referee in the NFL starting out as an umpire in 2015 and climbing the ranks until he became a ref three years later. He’s been hustling the sidelines alongside Tom Brady ever since.

Chris Hart is an IHSA referee and instructor. Along with other seasoned officials, he’s been training the junior referees on and off the field.

“The one thing he said was, ‘Hey, hustle. Always try to give your best. You’re not going to be perfect on every call,’” Hart said after Smith met with the group.

The junior referees vary in age. They’re as young as 15 and as old as 24. They train by learning the rulebook in a classroom. Then, their skills come to life out on the field. Many debuted at the flag football game. Smith met with them before and after the game for critique.

“It’s great to have somebody that’s reached the highest level of the officiating profession come back and participate in our Rockford program,” Hart said.

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