The NFL has spared no expense finding the best and brightest officials for tonight’s preseason opener.
Running the crew will be Craig Ochoa, perhaps best known as the highway commissioner of Hanover Township, Illinois.
According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com, Ochoa’s heading tonight’s crew of replacement officials for the Hall of Fame Game between the Saints and Cardinals.
Ochoa is listed on the local government’s website as being a “26 year veteran professional football and basketball referee working mostly in the Big 10 Football Conference and the Arena League.”
Sando notes the crew also features umpire Tim Morris, head linesman Kevin Akin, line judge Esteban Garza, field judge Rusty Spindel, side judge Dwayne Strozier and back judge Mark Wetzel.
The performance of these replacements is going to be as interesting as watching the Cards and Saints starters in a handful of plays, and could become a piece of leverage for one side, depending on their performance.
A crew of replacements was working the Panthers scrimmage Saturday, and a league source told PFT the two most-experienced members of that crew were a pair of retired officials from the ACC and Big Ten. It also included one official who worked in NFL Europa, and one whose experience was in the high school ranks. Most major Division I college conferences have barred their refs from working as NFL replacements, but some Division II leagues have also gone to that length.
These are the men monitoring and protecting the best players in the world. We’ll see in a few hours if anyone notices the difference.
(Photo credit: Hanover Township, Illinois)