Ed Hochuli Is Not Just the Most Well-Known NFL Referee: He’s the Most Important Man in Football

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.”


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