Paganelli Jr., officiating football games is neither profession nor vocation
but a hereditary condition. To hear him tell it, he has persevered not by
virtue of pluck or determination but because he can't help it. "In my
family, being a referee is genetic," he says. "It's in our
He and his
brothers, Perry and Dino, are making pro football history this season as the
first trio of siblings to officiate in the NFL. Perry, 48, is in his ninth
season with the league. Carl Jr., 46, has been on the job for seven seasons.
Dino, who served as an NCAA, NFL Europe or Arena Football League back judge for
the last 12 years, is one of the league's four new officials. "If they had
been from three different families, we still would have offered them
jobs--they're that good," says Mike Pereira, the league's vice president of
officiating. "Each time we've hired a Paganelli, he's been the top
candidate for the position."
Selected from a
field of more than 1,200 candidates, Dino, 38, is the youngest of the NFL's 120
officials. He will make his NFL regular-season debut in Kansas City on Sept.
10, when the Chiefs host the Bengals. His brothers will be assigned to
is the latest in a series of career highlights for the brothers. Carl Jr.
worked the 2005 Super Bowl. Three weeks earlier Perry had officiated an AFC
divisional playoff game. Last January, Dino refereed the NCAA championship game
at the Rose Bowl. Still, Dino says that joining the NFL is the ne plus ultra of
refereeing. "You can't go any higher--you've made the Show," he says.
"It's difficult to get there and difficult to stay. Reffing in the NFL is
highly competitive, and your performance is under constant scrutiny."
Perry and Dino
are back judges; they stand behind the defensive secondary. Carl Jr. is an
umpire, positioned just off the defensive line. "Perry and I like to hang
back and observe," says Dino, a high school physical education teacher in
Wyoming, Mich. "You have to be a little crazy to umpire that close to the
line of scrimmage, and Carl has the personality." When he's not keeping
order on NFL fields, the middle Paganelli brother is a federal probation
officer in Grand Rapids. Perry is a retired high school assistant
Carl Sr., began the family tradition in 1962, officiating games at Lee High in
the Grand Rapids suburb where he and his wife, Mary, raised their boys. When
Carl started as a ref, he was paid $7.50 a game and had to shell out $150 for a
black-and-white uniform. It took him an entire season of jayvee and varsity
games to break even.
After eight years
of high school football he was hired by the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic
Association. He worked 20 years at the college level and officiated or
supervised in the USFL, XFL and Arena League. He was an official observer at
the very first World League of American Football game-- London versus Frankfurt
in 1991--and had to don officiating duds when a head referee was hurt in the
opening minutes. Alas, he never got his chance to work an NFL game. "It
just didn't happen for me," says Carl, 69, who retired from on-field
officiating 10 years ago. He now supervises officials for the NCAA's
Mid-America Conference and serves as a paid observer for the NFL.
In the Paganelli
household, as on the football field, Carl Sr. called the shots. He was, not
surprisingly, a strict disciplinarian. "My father was the head ref,"
says Dino. But when the boys' mother stepped in to make a call, "Dad never
overruled her," Dino adds.
The boys tagged
along to Carl Sr.'s games and learned their craft while watching him from the
sideline. "Carl was as confident in his decisions as he was
knowledgeable," Pereira says. "He shared a lot with his boys."
Now the next
generation of Paganellis is learning to play by the rules. During a family
touch football game at Perry's home this summer, Dino's sons, Brady and Jake,
alternated between wide receiver and cornerback while Uncle Perry served as the
designated quarterback. Dino reffed. On one play five-year-old Jake leaped for
a pass, only to be pushed aside by Brady, who's seven. Dino called pass