Adrian Hill, 51, is entering his sixth season as an NFL official. Born in the District, he now lives with his wife in Bowie, Md.
Have you ever thrown a flag and immediately thought, Wow, I think I got that wrong?
Yeah, that happens to all officials, and there’s no shame in it. I’ve thrown a flag that I’ve picked up. You know, I threw it, but I threw it too quick.
If a player yells at you about a call, do they ever apologize later?
It’s funny. I’ve got to say categorically that players will get upset about calls and complain about stuff, but they’re always very professional. I actually had a player come up to me about a call from the previous year and say, “Hey, did you look again at that pass interference you called on me last year?” But, again, it’s usually good-natured.
Do you ever yell at officials in other sports?
I don’t really yell and critique out loud, but I really do watch them closely just to see how they handle different situations. Even though baseball is very different than football, I look at the way umpires deal with an angry coach or just kind of the crew dynamics. I try to pick up tips.
Did you play football growing up?
I did not. I was one of those small, nonathletic kids. I’d always been a football fan, and I always wondered what it would be like to officiate because it would be a way to be involved in the game. I started officiating in 1990. I had no idea how to get into it. Ironically, in The Washington Post there was a small advertisement that said “We need officials. We provide all training. No experience required.” So I responded to that ad to start my career in youth league and worked up through the ranks. At the end of my first year I got a paycheck; it was $196. And you had to buy your own uniform, which was $150. So I netted $46. I remember thinking, Is this really worth it? But I really enjoyed it and stuck with it.
Have you ever had a neighbor or a friend complain about one of your calls?
My very first game in the NFL was a national game — Dallas at Washington. So obviously living in Washington and having that as my first game, I heard about calls. On Monday mornings, it continues. Now, particularly with Baltimore and Washington, I will hear about calls, good and bad.
You’re a software engineer, which seems so completely different from refereeing.
In engineering, before we make any move, we plan it, we review it. It’s very different from football officiating, where something happens on the field and, boom, you have to make a split-second decision. It’s such the opposite of engineering, where everything is well thought out and you very rarely make off-the-cuff decisions.
Does your wife have a favorite team?
Her favorite team is the guys who wear the black-and-white vertical stripes every Sunday.
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