AP NEWS

Referee Walt Anderson brings NFL experience to Humble Rotary meeting

April 8, 2019

Walt Anderson, one of the most recognized NFL referees in the country, made a special appearance at the Humble Rotary meeting on Wednesday to talk about his career in the league.

Anderson, who grew up in Channelview, started his career by officiating little league and high school games in the Houston area.

Anderson then moved on to officiating college games in the now-defunct Southwest Conference before being hired by the NFL in 1996.

Throughout his 24 year career in the NFL, Anderson has officiated two Super Bowls — Super Bow XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens vs. the New York Giants and Super Bowl XXXXV with the Greenbay Packers vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition, Anderson has served 12 years as the coordinator for the football officials for the Big 12 Conference.

In the early stages of his career, Anderson went to dental school and opened up several practices in the Houston area.He later sold his practice in the early 2000’s to dedicate his time to the NFL.

“My dad was a football coach. So football has been a part of my life as long as I can remember,” Anderson said. “I’ve played ball in college, and after I graduated from college I was actually in dental school out here in the Medical Center.”

Anderson said one summer he and his father were talking and his father gave him the idea of becoming an official to earn some extra money for school.

“I still remember my very first time I walked out onto the football field as an official. It was at Drew Jr. High, just north of downtown Houston, and that was in 1975,” Anderson said.

Several years after officiating school games, Anderson started officiating college football games, and that is when he grabbed the attention of the NFL.

“You never know when opportunities are going to present themselves to you,” Anderson said.

Anderson was officiating a game for the Southwest Conference in Louisiana and the NFL had a scout from Mississippi named Joe Haynes, a long-time NFL official.

Haynes was there in Louisiana at the time to scout two other officials, but Anderson’s officiating skills caught his attention.

News of Anderson then traveled to Banks Williams, another long-time official. Williams called Anderson to encourage him to send an application to the NFL. Anderson officially sent his application in 1990.

Anderson didn’t hear anything for five years.

“In March of 1995, I got a call from the NFL saying, ‘we would like you to come to New York for an interview and a psychological test’ I went to New York, and I spent two days in New York City; one day interviewing talking to people about football and one day at psychology clinic drawing circles and (interpreting) ink blots and talking to doctors,” Anderson said.

He didn’t hear back from the NFL until 1996.

“At that time I had my dental practice, and I had a really big practice. I had 13 doctors and 45 employees. I remember I was working on a patient and my office manager came and said, there’s some guy by the name of Jerry Seeman on the telephone. And at that time Seeman was the head of officiating for the NFL,” Anderson said.

Being that it was April 1, also known as April Fools Day, Anderson didn’t take Seeman’s call thinking it was just a prank.

Anderson said about three hours later, Seeman called back and insisted on talking to Anderson.

On April 1, 1996, Anderson was officially hired by the NFL.

Anderson started out as a line judge in 1996 and after five years Seeman asked him to be a head referee.

“I went home, I told me wife and said, ‘I’m going to be a head referee in the NFL and that’s all I want to do’ and I sold my practice the next week. She nearly fell on the floor. I said, ‘I’ll keep my (dental) license and can always go back. If this doesn’t work honey I can always go back and practice dentistry.’ This to me is a once in a lifetime shot,” Anderson said.

Since then he has not a single regret selling his dental practice to work for the NFL.

“Overall it’s really been good. I’m going to do it as long as I physically can,” Anderson said.

In the crowd at the Humble Rotary meeting was Humble High School Football Coach Charles West who brought two of his players, Dexter Wyble and Tavian Coleman, to listen to Anderson speak about his career in the NFL.

“I think it’s an honor to have this opportunity in Humble ISD to meet someone who’s such a statute like Walt Anderson,” West said. “I’ve brought two of my players to just witness that there’s a lot that goes in football, it’s not just putting on your uniform and lifting weights.”

Humble Rotary President Danny Contreras said it was honor to hear Anderson speak as well.

“It was a really captivating presentation about his career (and) how he sold his dental practice and just fully being committed to the NFL and how it has impacted his life,” Contreras said.

kaila.contreras@chron.com