MORGANTOWN, WV — Alex Burke has been trying to be a college football referee for as long as he can remember. After working his way through the middle school and high school ranks, he was finally offered a position as a backup on a college football refereeing squad.
“It was a dream come true,” said Burke “I felt like I had finally made it. I was going to be living my dream of being a college football ref. I’d finally be making a difference.”
Burke said that while he was initially happy, he soon became frustrated.
“I was hired back in 2004, and have been riding the bench ever since. I had dreams of a lucrative career, you know, really making a name for myself; a major holding call here, a defensive pass interference call there. I thought I might even get to call a safety.”
His disappointment changed this weekend when back judge, Mark Reynolds, went down after being gingerly grazed by a lineman.
“Obviously, you hate to see a fellow referee go down,” said Burke, “but I couldn’t help feel like I was finally about to get my chance.”
Burke was right. Reynolds lied on the ground for no less than 20 minutes, and was carted off the field while giving a thumbs up to the stadium. Burke was then brought in as the substitute back judge.
“I was nervous, excited, and a little gassy. There were just so many emotions, I could barely handle it.”
Burke’s first flag came in the second quarter, during a pass play.
“The left tackle was grabbing the defensive end’s jersey and I knew it was my time to shine. I reached in my back pocket, pulled my flag, and I threw it what felt like five feet. It was exhilarating.”
Head linesman, Bob Gray, was emphatic that Burke made a good decision, saying, “Yeah, he made a good call.”
The rest of the game Burke was everywhere, throwing flags left and right, sometimes for penalties that he had no business calling, but that didn’t stop Burke from living out his dream.
“Next to the birth of my first child, this day stands as the greatest day of my life. I’ll never forget my night in Morgantown, West Virginia.”