Chicago native Jerry Markbreit worked as an NFL official for 23 years, including 22 as a head referee, until 1999. Markbreit officiated 468 NFL games, including four Super Bowls and one infamous Bears-Packers slugfest. He came up through the ranks of local high school and small college officials, showing what he could do as interested larger institutions watched his progress. Markbreit recently spoke with Midway Minute about climbing the officiating ladder over 43 years, who was the best referee ever, that Charles Martin hit on Jim McMahon, and how he's feeling the week of 86th birthday.
Midway Minute: Jerry, a lot of Bears fans knew that you grew up in Chicago and we'd always look forward to you officiating a big game on TV. Or even a Bears game — that was the best.
Jerry Markbreit: The fact is, in all of the years that I was in the National Football League for 23 years, I only worked one Bears game. Because back in those days, they didn't let the referees work in the towns that they lived in. There was one exception for me. It was the famous Green Bay game in 1986, the year after the Bears won the Super Bowl. That was the only regular season Bears game that I ever worked. And I worked 468 NFL games.
MM: The Charles Martin game!