Newburgh, Indiana Native to Take the Field at Super Bowl 56 as a Referee
While it's still to be determined who will play for the coveted Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles on February 13th as of this writing, the NFL has announced the members of the team who will be responsible for making sure the game is played by the rules. One of which has roots right here in the Tri-State.
Regardless of whether it's the Kansas City Chiefs versus the San Francisco 49ers, the Cincinnati Bengals versus the Los Angeles Rams, Chiefs versus Rams, or Bengals versus 49ers, when the big game kicks off, Newburgh native and Castle High School graduate, Bryan Neale (pictured above officiating a game between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers in 2018) will be on the field as part of head referee Ron Torbert's officiating crew serving as the game's umpire.
After he graduated from Castle, Bryan made his way to Bloomington to attend Indiana University. In a 2017 interview with Pride of IU, Bryan said he set a goal of becoming an NFL referee during his freshman year. Like any job, it took Bryan years of working his way up the ranks officiating high school and college ball before he got his chance. 25 years to be exact. He finally achieved his dream when he signed with the League for the 2014-2015 season. It would be another three years until he was assigned his first playoff game; a divisional round match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While other members of this year's crew have officiated other Super Bowls, Super Bowl 56 will be Bryan's first.
What Does the Umpire Do?
While most people call everyone on the field wearing a black and white striped shirt a referee, only one of them actually carries that title, the Head Referee. They are the lead official for the game and differentiate themselves from other officials by wearing a white ball cap instead of a black one.
In addition to the Head Ref, a seven-person NFL officiating crew also has a down judge, line judge, field judge, side judge, back judge, and an umpire. Each of which has certain aspects of the game they are responsible for monitoring.
As an umpire, Bryan will position himself primarily behind whoever is on offense about 15 yards away from the referee. His responsibilities include keeping an eye on players along the offensive line to make sure they don't move before the ball is snapped (i.e. a false start), counting the number of players on the field to make sure there are no more than 11 players on the field for either team, marking off penalty yards after a flag has been thrown, and possibly the most dangerous job of all, trying to figure out who has possession of the ball after a fumble by digging through the pile of players who are all fighting to get their hands on it. You can learn more about the responsibilities of not only the umpire but each member of the officiating crew at the NFL's Football Operations website.
When he's not trying to keep up with or get run over by world-class athletes on the football field, Bryan works as a sales and business consultant at Blind Zebra Consulting in Indianapolis which he founded in 2014. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to how fans will often refer to game officials when they call a penalty they don't agree with or miss one they think they should have seen.
Keep an eye out for Bryan when Super Bowl 56 kicks off on February 13th. And cut him some slack if he misses a call. With over 100 million people watching around the world, I'm sure his adrenaline is going to be in overdrive.