GRAND RAPIDS, Mich -- More than half a century ago Jerry Hendrickson would spend his Friday nights sitting in the bleachers at area high school football games, that is until his wife encouraged him to get more involved in the action as a referee.
“When she said, you know, why don’t you go and get paid for what you’re watching," said Jerry. "And at that time I did freshmen and J.V. games and I got five dollars for a freshmen game and seven dollars for a J.V. game. I got 12 dollars and I came home with 12 dollars that night and I thought I was in heaven.”
That spurred a 53-year career as a referee, which included 15 years as a ref in the Big Ten. Jerry has memories of being yelled at on the sidelines by legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, but what will be one of his best memories is what happened last Friday night getting to ref with all three of his sons, Jon, Steve and Dan.
“Officiating has been a part of all our lives since day one, really, so (Friday night was) very special for all of us to be on the field together,” said Jerry's oldest son Jon.
Jerry and his sons have reffed together before, but this time it was even more special, as it was likely for the final time. At age 78, Jerry is making this year his last as a ref.
“You know, him still being able to be out on the field at his age and, you know, it gives us some inspiration that maybe when we’re that age we can still be mobile and still a part of athletics in this area," said Jerry's son Steve.
“It’s just been a fun ride for all of us and a blessing to still have my dad out here working," said Jerry's youngest son Dan. "You know, at his age and the respect we get from a lot of the coaches in the area is tremendous.”
And while this is Jerry's final year as a ref, he isn't hoping for anything special, he’s just hoping year 53 is just as good as the previous 52.
“Well, I just don’t want to screw something up," said Jerry. "I want the ball to bounce the right way for the next nine weeks.”