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Ex-UTEP player turned NFL ref featured in Sports Illustrated

Published On: Oct 03 2012 11:46:38 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 12:04:31 PM CST

InsideSportsIllustrated.com has published excerpts of Sports Illustrated's cover story on the return of the regular NFL referees, featuring former UTEP player Ed Hochuli. Read UTEP magazine's feature on Hochuli here.

  • SI excerpts: Steve Rushin spends time with the lawyer, grandfather and ceramic zebra collector who represents the football fan’s national security blanket.
  • After a controversial Hail Mary ended last Monday’s Seahawks vs. Packers game and expedited the end of the referees’ lockout, Ed Hochuli, the referee known for his bulging biceps, is the most important man in football. His leadership of the locked-out referees and commitment to the game land him on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.
  • A partner at a Phoenix law firm and grandfather of ten, Hochuli has officiated NFL games since 1990 and is known for his intensity. Why? He knows all of America will scrutinize his calls. He says: “Sometimes I open my mouth and don’t know how the sentence is going to end. I can’t tell you how many times I start to say something and realize halfway through, ‘This is going to be on YouTube, isn’t it?’ ” (page 48).
  • Among his family and former colleagues, however, Hochuli is known as much for his eccentricities as for his big guns. He’s a science-fiction nerd, frequent Comic-Con attendee, and collector of the ceramic zebras he receives as ironic gifts.
  • On top of it all, he practices law 50 hours a week at his Phoenix firm, Jones, Skelton & Hochuli. Advised as a young lawyer that he could make extra money refereeing Pop Warner games, Hochuli was quickly hooked on the challenge of officiating, and relishes it even more with the added pressure of a large NFL viewing audience. He says: “I love that 50 million people are waiting for me to be right or wrong.”

Last week, deadspin.com posted an article about Hochuli respoding in a playful way to an NFL fan who asked that he and the striking referees return to the game.

"Given the absolute mess that I've seen over the past three weeks... I feel like I owe you an apology," the emailer wrote Hochuli. "I don't think I could appreciate what an amazing job you all do until I saw these guys, who I recognize are doing their best, fail so miserably and so blatantly."

Hochuli's responded with "Seriously, thanks for your email, but I'm sure a week after we're back, you'll be cursing me again!!!! That's half the fun. :)"

Hochuli has received a lot of heat for a few blown calls in the past, including one big one during the 2008 season.

After blowing a call that helped the Denver Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers early that year, Hochuli the referee admitted he made a mistake and answered e-mails from some fans telling them that.

"I'm getting hundreds of e-mails -- hate mail -- but I'm responding to it all," Hochuli wrote to several Chargers fans, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2008. "People deserve a response. You can rest assured that nothing anyone can say can make me feel worse than I already feel about my mistake on the fumble play. You have no idea … Affecting the outcome of a game is a devastating feeling. Officials strive for perfection -- I failed miserably. Although it does no good to say it, I am very, very sorry."

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