(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Ed Hochuli interview, go to 1:06:10 of the attached audio)
Former referee Ed Hochuli is the latest inductee into the Hall of Fame, though this one is not in Canton.
It’s in Milwaukee, Wis., and it’s not the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum – with a talking likeness of Hochuli, who retired this year after 28 seasons as an NFL official, now available for sale (you can find it at bobbleheadhall.com for $25).
“I don’t have one yet,” said Hochuli on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “but I understand that one is on its way. My wife is just so anxious. She said ‘We don’t have enough football stuff around. I want some more.’ "
Hochuli was kidding, of course. But the Ed Hochuli bobblehead is no joke. Hochuli reaps no proceeds from its sale, with the money he could make going to two charities close to him – Autism Speaks and the Tyler James Riveron Foundation.
“This was too good an opportunity to pass up,” said Hochuli, who rarely does interviews. “If you want to have something that you can – I don’t know – throw rocks at or whatever get the Ed Hochuli bobblehead.”
Hochuli was one of the most recognized and decorated NFL officials during a tenure that lasted nearly three decades. He worked two Super Bowls and was known as much for his muscular physique (OK, his sculpted arms, which move on his bobblehead) as he was his clear and concise on-field explanations.
But he was good at his job, too – so good, in fact, that, in a 2008 ESPN poll of head coaches, he and former referee Mike Carey were named as the league’s best referees.
But that was then, and this is now. And now officials are under fire for controversial calls and/or decisions, with some persons calling for them to be full-time employees.
Hochuli bristles when he hears that comment, saying he never thought of himself – or his colleagues – as anything but full-time.
“I officiated for 28 years in the NFL,” he said, “and I challenge anybody to say that I wasn’t full-time for 28 years … or the definition of full-time. Are the players part-time players because they only play 19 or 20 games a year? I don’t know what you want to call full-time.
“I worked every game. I did everything the NFL (asked). The NFL never called me up and said, ‘Hey, we want to put you on a Thursday night game. Can you get off your other job?’ No, it was just, ‘This is the Thursday night game.’
“I spent probably 50-plus hours a week on officiating. You watch 20 to 25 hours of video every week. There are rules tests every week. There is so much study that goes into it.
"You get videos every week – an hour of nothing but holding calls, with a voice over (saying) ‘We want holding calls. We don’t want holding calls, et cetera. Intentional grounding. Roughing the passer.'
“It is a full-time job. I just always kind of chuckle at the whole discussion about full-time officiating.”
Though retired, Hochuli is not entirely removed from officiating. He serves as a consultant to the NFL on rules issues, and his son, Shawn, is a first-year referee – in the NFL, no less. So we asked him what advice he gave him, and Hochuli laughed again.
There was no advice … and for good reason.
“He never asked me about becoming an official,” Hochuli said. “He was putting on a seminar (during) an open week of mine when I was in the NFL. He was putting on a seminar for some clients – he’s got an investment firm that he owns -- and he said, ‘Would you come over for the seminar? I’d like you to hear what I do.’ And I said, ‘Great.’
“So I flew over, and we drive into this high school. And I figure that well, it’s going on in the high-school auditorium or whatever, and he pulls out an officiating jersey and puts it on. I didn’t even know he started officiating.
“Early in his career he never told anybody what his last name was. It was just ‘I’m Shawn.’ He didn’t want to do it on his name. He wanted to get good and do it on his own.
“I’m extremely proud of him … I tell you what: I just stand back, I watch and I’m embarrassed. I say, ‘I wish that he would’ve made me a better referee. Because he sure is a great one’.