East Texas Ref In 40th Year Of Officiating

Milburn Chaney was too small to play football in high school. So to stay close to the game he loved so much, he decided to become an official. 40 years later, he's still doing it.

"Well, it's been fun," said Chaney.  "It really doesn't seem like 40 years to me. But you know, this game is just like every game we go to. It's the most important game in the state of Texas, and that's the way we approach it and we have fun with the kids. And it's been a fun ride for me."

That ride has taken the 62-year-old to such places as Texas Stadium and the Astrodome, and it even earned him an invitation to be one of just 10 referees in the state, in 2002, to officiate an all-star game at TCU.

"It really doesn't matter who wins to me," said Chaney.  "I just try to do the best job I can and just go from there."

His officiating team is a tight knit group of guys, some of which have been together for 20 years, and so they're quick to rib the "elder" of the group.

"Well, he's old, and he's decrepid, and he's got pain," joked fellow official Rip Drumgoole.  "He wears all kinds of braces and everything like that. Icey Hot, you name it he's got it on."

Gene Molloy says he loves telling the story about the game many years ago, he and Milburn got caught off-guard officiating in icey cold weather without warm clothes.

"Milburn had put everything he could on, and he took his shoe shine rag and had put it over his head and had taped it down his side, and put his cap back on," said Molloy.  "First play, we had a long run and here goes Milburn down there with this thing flopping on his side."

Molloy says, ever since that game, Milburn brings an extra set of long underwear everywhere he goes, even when it's 90 degrees in September.

Many years of memories, and after 40 years, Chaney says this may be his last.

"I say that every year," said Chaney, "and I just keep showing up, so we'll see next year."

Kevin Berns reporting.