La. to LA: Louisiana native officiates 3rd Super Bowl
ASSUMPTION PARISH, La. (WAFB) - To say that Carl Johnson has come a long way is an understatement.
“My first game was a pee wee football game working 8-9 year old kids in Houma, Louisiana,” said Johnson.
That was 1981. Twenty years, and countless high school and college games later, Johnson was called up to the NFL. He’s now one of professional football’s premier line judges involved in every single play.
“My passion was always football and the way to stay close to the game was through officiating,” said Johnson.
Johnson, who retired from Coca-Cola after 30 years, said he loves football and hopes to work for the NFL for another eight years. He can only go to the Super Bowl every other year and wants to attend maybe four more during his career.
“The false starts, illegal formations, the coaches are normally right behind us,” said Johnson. “We line up even with the football and every snap that goes off. We officiate every snap and we call it, make sure that snap is clean.”
Johnson has been on the field for three Super Bowls, and to do that you need a clean record.
“It’s based on performance,” he said. “Every play of every game of the regular season is graded and we are tracked and ranked.”
At the end of the regular season, only the best move on the playoffs, and that coveted assignment watched by millions.
“When I stop feeling the pressure,” he said. “When I stop getting nervous, it’s time to walk away from the game.”
Fans can be tough, and Johnson admits he gets hate mail.
“And I save all of that and I pull it out and read it, but they’re not mad at us. They’re mad at something that happened to their team,” he said.
Who can forget that infamous “blown call” three years ago that still has some Saints fans steaming.
“I’ve been asked about the call many, many times and I tell them this. Although a mistake is a mistake, we try to be perfect and we prepare hard. When a call is missed like that, that’s exactly what it is… a mistake. We didn’t do it intentionally. We missed it and we feel worse than anybody,” said Johnson.
What Johnson says most football fans really want to know is what it’s like under the big lights.
“It’s like being inside of a video game. That’s what it feels like at times. I’m there and things are moving so fast,” he said.
In 2020, Johnson made NFL history as part of an all Black officiating crew on Monday night football. But, he sees every moment on the job as a privilege.
“I’m humbled and grateful at this whole experience. Why me? I don’t know, but I am thankful,” said Johnson.
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