Chat with Ed Hochuli
The 2009 season will be Hochuli's 20th as an NFL official and 18th as a referee crew chief. During that time he has made his mark as one of the best refs in the business. He has worked two Super Bowls and is also well known for his workout regimen.
When Hochuli is not working with the NFL, he is a trial lawyer for the firm Jones, Skelton & Hochuli P.L.C., based in Phoenix. He has been with the firm since it was founded in 1983. He graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1976.
Send your questions and join Hochuli at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday!
Do you have ANY idea how big of an "icon" you have become? Does that bother you, or is it kind of cool for a ref to have recognition. (Don't give me the "the best refs are not noticed line) HA!
Ed Hochuli (12:33 PM)
Thank you for the compliment, Jason, but don't think I'm an icon. I just happen to officiate a very popular sport, and I've been fortunate to survive as a referee for 18 years (20 years in the NFL). It's been an exciting ride.
Eric (Columbus, OH)
What was the biggest difference between officiating collegiate and professional football games?
Ed Hochuli (12:35 PM)
There are obviously outstanding players in college, but in the NFL, they are ALL outstanding. Every player on a NFL team was the star of his college team. And as they grow older, they get bigger and faster and stronger. There is a huge difference in the speed of the game.
Vic: Ellicott City MD
You look in splendid shape for a not so young guy - let me ask you a general ref question as you may be tired of hearing your blown call questions... How many miles do the refs run in a typical football game and what do you do to keep in shape?
Ed Hochuli (12:36 PM)
We've worn pedometers a couple times, and we typically run about 6 miles in a game. Of coures, it's starting and stopping. We definitaly have to be in shape!
Justin (Mount Solon, VA)
We have a family friend who is an NFL side judge and he's told us how difficult the exams each year are for refs. How hard are the exams and do the new rule changes every trip you up on these exams?
Ed Hochuli (12:37 PM)
We take several rules tests before the season, and then during the season, we take a rules test each week. It's not that the new rules trip us up - it's just that the NFL rules are so complicated with a different rule covering each thing that happens - we have to study all the time just to remember them.
Jeff (Athens, GA)
What would you say is the hardest part of reffing every Sunday?
Ed Hochuli (12:38 PM)
The travel is a killer! Most times, I'm going from Arizona to the mid-west or east coast. During the game, the concentration is the key. We have to have 100% concentration, or we'll miss something
Charger fan here - sorry you had to go through all that garbage last year. After all, it's just a game. That being said, what rules would you like to see implemented or taken away to make the game even better?
Ed Hochuli (12:39 PM)
I don't really have any suggestions for new rules. The competition committee meets each year and they make rules changes. They changed the rule to deal with the mistake I made last year. And they are always changing the rules to make the game safer. That is, and should be, the major emphasis.
Ed, at a Rams game in 2006, you took a pregame picture with my nephew, then took the time to sign it when Arthur sent it to you. I wanted to thank you. I can't tell you what that meant to him.
Ed Hochuli (12:40 PM)
It was my pleasure. People honor me by wanting to have their picture taken with me. Seriously, I'm nothign special. The PLAYERS are the special ones.
Does it ever get tough trying to make a hard decision when you have all these huge athletes trying to tell your their side of it?
Ed Hochuli (12:41 PM)
They all do surely have a "recommendation" for us! Frankly, we learn to ignore them and just talk amongst ourselves and work based on our experience. They are certainly huge, though!
chris, syracuse ny
do you think that the league should do more to protect wide recievers who go over the middle of the field and are wide open to be leveled by a corner?
Ed Hochuli (12:42 PM)
There is a new rule change this year designed for that very purpose. In the past, it was a penalty when a defender hit a defenseless receiver with his head. This year, the shoulder has been added to that. There is a strong emphasis on protecting defenseless players, like receivers.
Ben (Los Angeles, CA)
You're a fan of the "tailored look" in ref uniforms. What's the thought process behind that?
Ed Hochuli (12:43 PM)
"Tailored look"! LOL. You're saying my shirt is too tight? I do tailor my jersey, but that's for comfort and for looks. I think a baggy jersey looks sloppy. also, it's more comfortable to fit me like mine does.
Kevin Tallahassee, FL
From one official to another I admire you for standing up and recognizing your mistake. You are a great inspiration to officials everywhere. I wish you the best of luck and look forward to watching you on Sundays next season.
Ed Hochuli (12:44 PM)
Thank you very much. I really appreciate all the people who have written me and supported me. All the support and comments, like yours, has been very humbling.
Chris: Canton, Ohio
Mr.Hochuli, you and your crew are almost flawless when you call a game,thank you for your integrety.My question/comment is, why when an official sees a penalty and throws the flag ( most times at the line of scrimmage) it's at times picked up? If the NFL has clear guidelines for what constitutes an infraction, and the official throws the flag clearly seeing an infraction dictating his reason to toss the flag, then what would over ride his decision and make him pick it up ending up as a non call? Are some officials not clear on what all the infractions are? Are penalties called by consensus?
Ed Hochuli (12:46 PM)
Thank you. There are many reasons for picked up flags. Most of the time, it's anohter official who saw it from a different angle, and when they talk, they decide between them that the other official had a better angle. Sometimes, it's because one penalty "trumps" the other. For example, we could have a flag for def. offside, but anfalse start on the other side of the line called by the other official, takes precedence.
Craig, New Jersey
Have you ever got caught up in a game and its emotions and thought about lowering your shoulder and doing a Brandon Jacobs act on someone?
Ed Hochuli (12:47 PM)
No way. Those guys are twice my size!
Mike (Denver, CO)
I hear that you are a bodybuilder/lawyer as well. Is that true????
Ed Hochuli (12:47 PM)
Not a body builder. I do lift weights and spend a lot of time doing cardio. I am also a lawyer - a trial lawyer.
Will DeFelice (San Diego, CA)
First off, I want to say that most Charger fans have forgotten about what happened. Being related to an NFL umpire I have been drilled on how the rules work and that you guys have no control or authority to overturn such calls like the one in Denver. My question for you is the same one I ask my Uncle, why do the NFL referees have no say or input on any new rules or rule changes?
Ed Hochuli (12:49 PM)
Say hi to Garth for me. He's one of the very best umpires to ever work the game. I don't think we are in a good position to determine what rules are best. The folks who do set the rules are watching games with that focus. They look at statistics and they see what's going on in ALL the games. We see one game a week, and we see it from a different perspective.
Paul: New York, NY
Mr. Hochuli. I have been officiating high school basketball for 15yrs and have eeven had the chance to do a couple of college games. Im not sure if I would ever have the desire to try professional, but if I were, what adivse could you give me in terms of a place to start? How should I prepare myself mentally?
Ed Hochuli (12:50 PM)
That's a long answer, Paul. Please email me off line and I will send you my recommendations. I offer that to any aspiring officials.
Justin (Long Island)
I just want to say, that after reading the article on you, it's a shame that your legacy can be "tainted" by one call. However, I highly doubt that it will be since you have been ranked one of the best officials in the game year after year. I need to know, have you ever pulled a Garth DiFelice and knocked out a player on the opposing team?
Ed Hochuli (12:51 PM)
Garth is twice my size, and he intimidates me! I run the other way.
Ed Hochuli (12:51 PM)
Jared (Rochester, NY)
What is the hardest call to see/make on the field?
Ed Hochuli (12:52 PM)
That depends on your position. For the Referee, it's the "pass/fumble". Did the QB start forward with the bal in his hand, or did it come out before he started forward. For the deep officials, it's the sideline catches when the player is in mid stride (not the toe-tappers).
what are your thoughts on the doing away with the wedge i think kick returns will never be the same
Ed Hochuli (12:53 PM)
It's all about player safety, Chad, as it should be. The wedge was considered a dangerous play, and the league's emphasis is on increasing player safety. No doubt teams will find a way to make exciting kick off returns, anyway!
Mr. Hochuli, I'm a US Marine and understand the meaning of rules and protocol, but have you ever felt that a rule may be unnecessary or unjust? Possibly taunting?
Ed Hochuli (12:55 PM)
I honestly don't judge the rules. I just try to enforce them. They are made by people who have a much bigger picture than I do. And as for taunting, it provokes anger in games, and it carries over to kids in their games. Taunting should not be a part of the game. HOWEVER, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY. I HAVE THE GREATEST RESPECT FOR OUR SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN. You may notice a blue bank i wear on my right wrist during games. it says "I support our troops".
Martin Potrzebowski (Milwaukee)
Do you ever have time off? I can't imagine juggling two successful careers. That is remarkable.
Ed Hochuli (12:56 PM)
it's all about time managemetn, Martin. We all waste so much time. For example, when i do my cardio on a stair stepper or staionary bike - I read my legal papers from my lawyer job and i study rules. Time management!
Dan (Germantown, New York)
Mr. Hochuli, do you think that pro football players make too much money? There has often been a large debate over pro sports players and the multi-million dollar contracts they sign. After all Peyton Manning makes more than $1 million dollars per game when one breaks his salary down.
Ed Hochuli (12:58 PM)
How much to actors and actresses make for movies or TV shows? How about authors for books they write? Athletes provide an incredible amount of entertainment for our society. Just think about how big Football is in our society.
mike - ca
If you were to start a football team, what player would you pick, if you cant answer that due to the nfl, what position other than QB??
Ed Hochuli (12:58 PM)
What is the loudest arena in the league?
Ed Hochuli (12:59 PM)
Great question. It depends on the game and how the home team is doing that year. In big games that are close, when the home team is having a good year, the stadiums fill up and they all can be incredibly loud. I love those games.
Ed Hochuli (1:00 PM)
Mike Pereira - the head coach of all officials. He's the VP of officiating in the NFL - my boss.
How much time do you actually get to spend in the city of the game you are calling? I hope Nashville treats you right!
Ed Hochuli (1:01 PM)
Beautiful city, Nashville. We fly in on Saturday and head straight to the hotel, where we meet for about 5 hours reviewing film, etc. We have dinner together, devotional and breakast together, take a rules test and head to the stadium. From the stadium straight to the airport. So unless i fly in early or stay late, we don't really get to see much of the cities.
Brandon Collins (Richmond, KY)
Im sure a lot of questions have been submitted. Do you get to see all of them and also do you get to pick which ones you respond to.
Ed Hochuli (1:02 PM)
I see the next one in line, but I can skip it. The only questions I'm skipping, though, are the ones that ask about favorite teams and players. I don't reallyhave any favorites. As a Ref, you cant'.
Pat (Rocky Mountains)
Ed--Ever get to grab a pre-game bratwurst in Green Bay? they are rank up there with KC BBQ.
Ed Hochuli (1:03 PM)
Maybe after i retire and i do a circuit of the league visiting all the tailgating going on!
J.J. Rochester NY
Ed like to see you officiating the NFL games and can't wait for this coming season to start. But how does it feel to have bigger arms than a lot of the players??
Ed Hochuli (1:04 PM)
The players' arms are all bigger than mine. Some of them joke with me about it and compare, but they are all bigger than me.
What type of criteria are the referees in the league graded on?
Ed Hochuli (1:05 PM)
Wow. Very long answer. In short, the league spends 8 hours on each game, and every official gets graded on each play. Position, mechanics, judgment, if we called a foul was it right, if we didn't call a foul - should we have, announcements, game control, etc.
Ed, you have a strong role in our daily Morning Buzz chats here at ESPN. Your chat reffing skills are without peer. Were you aware of your legendary status here at ESPN.com? Thanks for joining us.
Ed Hochuli (1:06 PM)
I've heard a little bit about it, and i'm very flattered. It's obvioulsy flattering that people (not all!) like the way I officiate. I take it very seriously.
Iam (Gary In.)
Mr. Hochuli, what is your most cherished memory as an official?
Ed Hochuli (1:08 PM)
There are many. Two that stand out are the two superbowls i worked. The second one in Houston in "04 - all my 6 kids and their spouses/ girlfriends were wearing referee jerseys with my number 85 on them. There were 14 of them that traveled and sat togher in a pack.
Brian Keed, Staten Island, NY
You sent one of your jerseys to one of my friends for a fund raiser we have for a friend of our's that died 9/11. That has been better than any donation from 3 NFL teams that have sent! You are the man!!! Thank you for taking time to do that. (by the way, my friend has worked out since last year's event so he can fit in it this year unlike like last year)
Ed Hochuli (1:09 PM)
I'm glad at least I've got him working out!
John (Baltimore, MD)
I just want to comment on the poor NFL fans. Most of the referees and Ed Hochuli in particular do an outstanding job interpreting a very complicated set of rules every week. Just because they also happen to be human like the rest of us is not a good enough reason to blame them for a blown call now and then. We now have instant replay to help them get it right. The NFL beats the MLB when it comes to trying to get the calls right using replay. It isn't perfect yet and never will be, but at least the effort is being made. Thanks to the referees who do their best to get the calls right!
Ed Hochuli (1:09 PM)
Thank you very much, Jon.
Josh (Amsterdam, NY)
Being a Broncos fan I was happy with "the call" but what was going through your head after you saw the replay and realized "whoops"?
Ed Hochuli (1:10 PM)
Frankly, I suspected before I even got to replay that i had made a mistake. I was horrified, but i also knew i couldn't do anyting to fix it, and i knew i had to get my head together for the next play, or i would make another play. It really set in after the game.
Do you like being a referere more than a lawyer or is it the other way around?
Ed Hochuli (1:12 PM)
Both jobs have their good parts and their bad. I love the pressure about both of them. I'm a trial lawyer, so I love the pressure in the courtroom. I love the challange of trying to be right under very difficult conditions with so many people watching and second-guessing in slow motion
Ed Hochuli (1:13 PM)
I'm sorry to all that my half hour is way over. I'm going to have to go now. I have a flight to catch. Thank you all for your interest and most of all for your support. It really means so much to me. Ed
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