Penn Wagers is a head football referee in the SEC. He's been refereeing for 28 years.
...Penn Wagers is a head football referee in the SEC.He's
been refereeing for 28 years. Penn Wagers
has heard more cuss words than Chris Rock's mom.
For nearly 28 years, Wagers
has patrolled up and down football fields all across the globe maintaining order in an otherwise hectic sport.In his
officiated somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 plays.If you ask him if he's
ever blown a call, he'll look you right in the eye and say no.And then he'll give you that signature smirk.
"Missing a call is something that is going to happen," he
says."We're human beings, after all."
As a fan, you just pray he's
not a human being the week he's
calling your team's game.
Nobody dreams of being a referee.
Like many kids, Wagers
wanted to be a professional football player when he
grew up.At first, his
passion started with neighborhood pickup games, then organized peewee leagues in Summerville.In high school, he
suited up for Mims Academy
, a small school with an even smaller football team.
"There wasn't but 14 of us on the team.I had to play offense and defense," he
When it came time to go to college, nobody recruited Wagers
was too small.And just like that, his
dream was cut short.After graduating from Trident Technical College, he
went to work at a local paper mill.Though the pay was good, the work was hard and the hours were long.A friend of his
tried to talk him into refereeing football. Wagers
scoffed at the idea: "I had always wanted to play.I never thought about being a ref."
But after watching that same friend repeatedly come home with extra spending money, Wagers
decided it was worth a shot.
So in 1974, Penn Wagers
stepped on the football field wearing a different kind of uniform.
Over the next 15 years, Wagers
would ask for hundreds of days off work from the paper mill so that he
could referee.It started with local pickup games, then high school games.In 1980, he
began calling Division II football games, which meant frequent road trips to remote places to call games between Nobody and Nobody State.
"It was hard work, let me tell you," he
has 28 years of experience under his
knows fans don't care a lick when they think he
might have just blown a call against their team.
Very matter-of-factly, he
says: "In college football, you're only as good as your last call."He's candid when he says being an official is not for people whose feelings are easily hurt or those who don't perform well under pressure.
"You gotta be tough," he
says."It takes a while to get conditioned to hearing how bad you are."The only solace Wagers can take is that he
has the support of the rest of his
For five years now, Wagers
has acted as a head referee in the SEC
, which he
calls "the toughest conference on the planet Earth."
During that time, he's
called games featuring some of the greatest coaches in the country.Holtz.Richt.Spurrier.Tuberville.Saban.
The ability to remain impartial is one of the greatest skills that top-level referees possess, and Wagers
is no different.But you can't help but wonder where his
loyalty lies: Clemson or Carolina?