Clarke County Democrat

English tabbed for officials’ Hall of Fame

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Don English to be inducted in August in Oxford.

Don English to be inducted in August in Oxford.

The culmination for Don English after 48 of years patrolling the gridiron in the black and white stripes was the announcement recently of his induction into the Alabama Sports Officials Hall of Fame.

“I honestly never thought that this would happen,” English said of the nod to the hall of fame. He will be one of 10 to be inducted into the 2024 class. The ceremony will be Aug. 3 in Oxford.

English had initially retired from officiating high school football games in 2014 and actually took a year off, but the lack of officials for games brought him out of retirement. “There was a need and I knew that I could still officiate at the level I expect.

“If we do our job right,” Don English said. “Then no one knows we were even there.”

Nominees are given a fiveyear window to be selected into the hall and English was a first-year ballot selection.

Starting with the Class of 2019, there have been 62 officials who have been inducted into the hall, covering all sports like football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer.

English with longtime University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant in the early days of his work as a referee.

English with longtime University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant in the early days of his work as a referee.

“It is well known that, in his capacity as a high school football official over the past 40 plus years, Don has made significant contributions to high school athletics, and his impact has been felt by many,” Richard Wright expressed in his letter to the committee.

Former Alabama High School Athletic Association Director Steve Savarese added, “Don exemplified the true representation of a sports official, conducting himself with character and class, with an emphasis on zero mistakes, positioning, and most importantly, interpreting the rules appropriately… Don English was truly one of our state’s very best sports officials.”

The 77 year old officiated his final game with a quarterfinal playoff game of Eufaula playing at Demopolis. “I got to keep calling games and was able to go out on my terms and I don’t feel like I stayed in it too long. It has always been fun for me.”

English roamed the gridiron for 48 years as an official.

English roamed the gridiron for 48 years as an official.

When he retired in 2014, his last game was the Class 7A state title game between Hoover and Prattville in Auburn.

“I had to keep my emotions in check,” English said. “Especially at the start of the game. I realized then that it was my last game.

“The atmosphere in Auburn…it was the very first Class 7A title game…it was an emotional moment,” he added.

The two teams pitted in that game were Hoover and Prattville. They are the same teams that played in one of English’s most memorable games.

“It was the MTV game,” English laughed. “MTV had been following Hoover all year with their ‘2-A-Days’ show and there was a huge crowd. It was a close, hard fought game.

“MTV had cameras everywhere and they had a producer who wanted to put a microphone on me. I already had two. I sent him to talk to the AHSAA head Dan Washburn.

“I did not wear their microphone,” English said.

English got his start in officiating 1972 when his uncle, Bob Wells, asked him about working football games. His uncle, at 91, is still involved in being an official and only recently left working in the field to move to the press box.

“I was a fledgling rookie fireman when my uncle, the battalion chief, asked if I wanted to officiate football games,” English said. “It was different back then. You had to be invited, and then be sponsored and the group voted on you.”

His uncle, at 87, was still involved in being an on the field official and then moved to working in the press box the following year.

“There were about 13 members of that group who also called SEC games and some others did Gulf South Conference game,” he added. “Our group had all of the schools in Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties. There were not as many schools as there are now.”

In those days there were just four men per crew, with no back judge. “You really had to hustle back then,” English said. “My first game was Hueytown at Thompson.”

English estimates that he has traveled over 250,000 miles calling games and attending regular weekly football meetings, along with AHSAA football camps and district camps.

One of the things that will likely be missed when some of the officiating crews get together before a game that English may have been part of…Zero candy bars. He passed those out to his crew members as a reminder that there would be zero mistakes made. He has given out more than 4,780 of those candy bars.

Has English really called his final game? “Mary (his wife) laid all my uniforms out on the bed and suggested that I donate them to someone who could use them for the upcoming season.”

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