Athens man gets chance as replacement ref

Posted by : admin | On : October 8, 2012

Athens resident Mike Peek (far left) poses with his crew before the NFL Week 4 preseason game in Green Bay, Wis., Thursday, Aug. 30. Peek was selected as one of the replacement referees while the NFL went through a labor dispute with the regular referee’s union. (Courtesy Photo)

By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff

ATHENS — The first thing you notice in Mike Peek’s office are the game mementos. One from a Class 2A state title game here, another from a Class 3A title game there, a couple from NCAA playoff games.

Then you see the one with the NFL logo from 2001; that one is the biggest and gets a wall to itself.

But it is the little ones, obvious gifts from friends and family, that tell the real tale. Ceramic snowmen and a frog and a troll and a pinata and what looks like a cookie jar, all dressed like referees.

The personal gifts tell you about a lifelong passion rather than some momentary accomplishments, and for Peek the passion has been refereeing football. For going on 42 years, from middle school to the Dallas Cowboys opener 11 years ago, he’s called games at every level. He’s officiated at the college ball for 27 years, 13 in the Division 1 Southland Conference.

Because of the labor dispute between the NFL and the league’s referees this year, he earned a second shot at the big time and was the head linesman for three preseason and three regular season games before the two sides came to an agreement last week.

He called games at historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Soldier Field in Chicago, and was even under the lights in prime time for Monday Night Football.

“I asked the supervisor when the thing first started, ‘Where would I want to go (to officiate) if I could go to one place?’ He said Green Bay,” Peek said. “We got to talking, and he said the next closest place, because of the history, would be Soldier Field.”
“So you talk about lucky, I got to go to Green Bay and then Chicago.”