CONYERS—National Football League referee Jerome Boger is used to giving directions to 6-foot-tall, 300-pound football players in front of millions of football fans. Boger recently visited Rockdale County High School for a mentoring session, “Making the Right Call,” to share with students how they, too, can get in the game.
“I’m here today to offer the kids something different and inspire them to consider a career in officiating,” said Boger, a 34-year NFL referee veteran. “This may be a job they have never even considered before.”
The Rockdale NAACP, which organized the mentoring session, invited Boger to be the guest speaker. Boger, who moved to Conyers in 2003 from Atlanta, is only the second African American to serve as the head referee of the Super Bowl in the game’s 46-year history.
Boger told students that NFL refs average about $149,000 per season. He said he earns about $45 per hour, not including $300 per diem each game, first class flights to games and free hotel stays. Boger went beyond football’s X’s and O’s, setting the students up with a game plan to succeed.
“It all starts with education. If you think the reading and tests end after school, you’re wrong. Referees study three manuals constantly,” Boger said of his profession. “I’ve seen a lot of players come and go who had great athletic ability but didn’t last because they couldn’t study plays and learn routes. You have to be a student of the game and commit to spend time in preparation.”
Boger, a Morehouse College graduate, said all 121 NFL officials are college graduates. He recommended that students interested in pursing a sports career not only go to college, but consider volunteering with local recreation departments and schools either as a statistician or trainer to learn more about the game.
Boger shared stories of traveling across the country, attending pre-season team camps, and interaction he has with players.
“The players are just like kids in the sense that they love when you recognize something good they’ve done,” said Boger, who wears No. 23 on game day Sundays. “I remember in the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis’ eyes lit up when I told him: ‘Hey, nice hit, Ray.”
Heritage High School Senior James Dipzinski, 17, said Boger’s talk motivated him to keep pursuing his desired career.
“I want to be a head football coach someday. Mr. Boger encouraged me to pursue that goal,” said Dipzinski, who is No. 71 on Heritage’s football team.
Rockdale County CEO Richard Oden, who attended the talk, said Boger is one of Conyers’ hidden jewels as a resident in Rockdale.
“Mr. Boger is truly successful and I’m proud to have him here as a resident in Conyers,” said CEO Oden, who played quarterback, tailback and fullback in college and was an NFL prospect until an unfortunate knee injury. “Our students got the chance to see and touch a real living legend.”