NFL hires ‘Beef Ref’ Defee as ref coach


Last updated 4/21/2020 at Noon

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Mauriceville’s Mike Defee is making the jump from college football to the NFL.

The Big 12 referee known as “Muscle Ref,” “Beef Ref” and “Jacked Ref” because of his enormous biceps, is retiring from active officiating to take a position in the NFL front office.

Defee, who has officiated every major bowl game and gained fame during the January 2017 College Football National Championship game, will coach current NFL officials, specifically focusing on the referee position, reports say.

Walt Anderson, a longtime NFL referee and fellow Texan, recruited Defee for the job. Anderson left the field after last season to become Senior Vice President of the NFL in charge of training and development of officials.

Besides working as an NFL referee, Anderson had been the Big 12 coordinator of football officials for years, working closely with Defee on that basis.

Defee, 57, is the president of the Newtron Group of Nederland, an industrial electrical and instrumentation contractor.

He began working as a football official in 1995, but rose through the ranks in a hurry, making his Big 12 debut in 2005.

In a lengthy question-and-answer interview with The Athletic website last week, Defee told Chris Vannini he had been considering retirement from officiating because of the travel, and Greg Burks, Anderson’s replacement in charge of Big 12 officials, spurred the job change when he announced he’d be splitting up Defee’s officiating crew to spread the talent around.

“We’ve had the best crew in the country for quite some time,” Defee said. “I wasn’t ready to start over, honestly.”

He said he met with Anderson at a Buc-ees in January and talked about the new job.

“I had to come to grips with, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna come off the field, and I finally made that decision,” he told Vannini.

“So I’m looking forward to working with him in the program and trying to help in their officiating program.”

Defee made a couple of really big calls in 2019.

In the Texas-Oklahoma game he called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the entire Texas and Oklahoma teams after a pre-game scuffle.

College football rules include an automatic ejection and one-game suspension to any player or coach getting two unsportsmanlike penalties in a game. So Defee put the two rivals on a short lease before the kickoff even occurred.

In the Big 12 championship game between Baylor and Oklahoma, he told Baylor Coach Matt Rhule that quarterback Charlie Brewer should be examined for a possible concussion.

Brewer exited the game and never returned. Oklahoma won the game in overtime.

Defee told Vannini he’d miss college football. A lot.

He cited memorable games: Five Big 12 championship games, the 100th anniversary Rose Bowl and getting to visit with legendary broadcaster Vin Scully; working at Notre Dame; working the Wisconsin-LSU game at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.

“It’s gonna be hard. I’m gonna miss the guys. I love the environment in the stadiums and the bands, just love the game. I will miss working with the guys and the coaches.

“I’ll always remember all the great times and the great people that I had an opportunity and the privilege to work with,” Defee said in The Athletic piece.


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