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December 5, 2012

Former NFL official from Athens discusses career

ATHENS — For about four months this season, Mike Peek of Athens was an official in the National Football League. Would he do it again? That’s not even a close call.

Peek spoke to the Athens Kiwanis Club, Tuesday, sharing his memories of blowing whistles and throwing flags as an NFL replacement official. He’s called games for 42 years, including marquee match-ups in high school, junior college and the NCAA, but the pro games are on a higher plane. In the pros, every call has the potential of making millions of fans cheer or jeer, depending on where their loyalties lie.

“When people would ask me about it, I’d say don’t pinch me, I’m dreaming,” Peek said. “As long as it lasted, it was a great situation, and a great experience.”

Peek’s NFL tour began in June with a trip to Atlanta for meetings and tests.

“Then you waited around for a couple of weeks to see if you would be invited to the next clinic in Dallas,” Peek said.

From Dallas, Peek was sent to work at the Baltimore Ravens training camp.

“I was going down the hall, going to this meeting, and was going to tell these guys who’d been in the league for 10 or 15 years about NFL rules,” Peek said. “Was I a little out of place? Probably.”

Peek spent three days at the Raven’s camp, which he said is like a country club, with football fields instead of golf courses. On Saturday, he got to officiate a Raven scrimmage game with about 45,000 fans in attendance.

Peek worked three pre-season games and two regular season battles. He said the coaches of the participating teams were easy to deal with and remembers chatting with Chicago Bears Coach Lovie Smith about Athens, and Smith’s home town of Big Sandy.

All-told, Peek estimates that about 500,000 people got to witness his officiating first-hand in the stadium, and tens of millions on television. His final game was the Monday night football clash between Green Bay and Seattle that ended on a disputed touchdown catch, that most of the nation thought should have been ruled an interception. Peek got a great view of the play, but had no authority to make the call.

Peek had a previous stint in the NFL in 2001, but that was over in a blink. During the work stoppage, he worked the pre-season finale and season opener. The games the following weekend were canceled in the wake of the 9-11 tragedy. By the time the NFL teed up again, the strike was over.

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