NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An SEC football umpire from Nashville is on the crew selected to officiate the Rose Bowl game in California on Thursday.
Russ Pulley, a long-time Nashville FBI agent, now spends his weekends behind the linebackers in SEC match-ups.
He says it’s about more than just throwing penalty flags.
“We’re not there just to throw flags,” said Pulley. “Ninety-eight percent of what I do is manage a ballgame. So I keep players in check. We talk to players. We talk to coaches. We help communicate with coaches and let them know what’s going on in a game.”
Being an SEC umpire or referee is a year-round commitment, with big games like the Rose Bowl requiring weeks of preparation.
“I worked my last football game Thanksgiving weekend. And we’ve been preparing ever since then.”
Pulley’s nearly 20 year career with the FBI ended in 2002.
But some of the skills required for law enforcement can transfer over to umpiring, “Especially when you’re working a game like the Iron Bowl or a Florida-Georgia game when a lot’s swirling around you and you just maintain your level of focus.”