Johnny Grier, a former athlete at Dunbar High School, will be in the NFL this season, not as a player but as an official.
A veteran of 16 years of officiating in high school games and in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference, the 34-year-old Grier will undergo four final days of clinics and training in Pittsburgh in July before donning his NFL striped shirt. He will be a field judge and will work NFL preseason games before "visiting a lot of cities I haven't seen before."
"That's a long way from the high school games and a big jump from the $25 fee per game," said Grier, a supervisor with the C&P Telephone Co. "I applied for the NFL back in '76. I guess it takes a while. Right now, I'm studying 14 reels of film, learning my position on the field and studying mechanics. I'm looking forward to it but I'm not real excited yet, not yet. I'm just glad the wait is finally over."
Grier will be the first black field judge in the NFL. There were only seven black officials in the league last year, a fact that upsets many athletes, coaches, officials and fans.
"The NFL takes six or seven new officals each year," said Grier, who needs only 12 hours to earn his accounting degree from the University of the District of Columbia. "I thought I had a good chance last year but I was passed over. Each year since '76, I have reapplied. They send people out to observe you all the time so you have to stay on top of what's going on out there. Maybe I was just lucky and in the right place at the right time."