The Full Story
As a high school sports official, your job is to make sure that between the lines, everyone has a fair shot and the game is played within the rules. Officials protect the integrity of the game that kids love to play by demonstrating qualities like courage, fairness, honesty, uniformity and common sense.
Becoming a high school football official is a terrific hobby, especially for those who love the game of football. You must be able to interact and communicate with players, coaches and other officials. When unexpected moments occur, you will need to remain poised, confident and be able to resolve quickly and professionally. Additionally, you should not only be willing to accept constructive criticism from your colleagues, you must also be able to accept unwelcome objections and complaints from spectators. Our chapter officiates schools in the following New Jersey Counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem.
Tom “T” Bird Wilson
Born 6/1/37 - Died 11/2/87
Tom Wilson - Collingswood H.S. - Class of 1955
Tom Wilson had a strong competitive nature that he carried all through life. Whether it was on the golf course, the baseball field, the football field, the swim club or any other venue he always strove to be the best he could be. As an official or a player he never varied.
He was a mid 70’s to low 80’s golfer. As a senior in high school, he pitched and won (2 complete games) against Atlantic City High School in a doubleheader. Not the biggest guy, he held his own as a tight end at 5’11” 170 lbs. He was however, a prolific punter who by all accounts, was one of the best in South Jersey. He did all of this while living with type 1
Juvenile Diabetes. Tom also lost one eye in an accident as a youth.
After graduating, Tom married his high school sweetheart , Nancy Seegar , in 1957. Together they eventually settled in Haddon Heights raising 4 daughters: Debbie, Lisa, Lori, and Jessica. He found time to coach them in softball, tennis, and swimming through their youth years.
He worked for the Camden Courier Post as a classified ad manager. Part of his job was to predict winners of that week’s high school football games every Friday. In those days, all of the games were played on Saturdays. He used the moniker of “Want Ad Willie” which was what the paper called the article. Tom took great pride in his predictions.
All the while, Tom became one of the best umpires in the South Jersey Football Officials Chapter. His ability to control the middle was uncanny, especially for someone of his size. He took no guff from coaches or players and had a soothing disposition no matter the score or situation. Young officials took solace in talking to Tom at the Monday night meetings held at Collingswood H.S. . He always took the time to help a fellow official through a tough situation. The late Ed Myer (longtime assigner) was quoted upon Tom’s passing, “a damn good official and a better man”.
A short excerpt from a poem written by his daughter Lisa after his death.
On a high school football field is where he’d be
On every fall Saturday.
He really loved the game of football
As spectator or referee.
Throwing a penalty flag too often
Was never our dad’s style.
Giving an athlete a second chance
Was always worth his while.
As time marched on, the diabetes ravaged Tom’s body and working games became more physically challenging. He still made himself available to anybody that asked for help. His Thanksgiving game in 1983 would be his final game on the field. His biggest fear was how to tell Ed Meyer (the assigner) that he was done. He agreed to become a clock operator in order to “stay in the game”.
Tom suffered a stroke in the summer of 1986. Although his speech and walking ability were severely altered, he rehabbed enough to improve so that he could climb the steps to do clocks. Through all his adversity, he never lost his sense of humor and wanted no one to feel sorry for him. Tom never felt like he got cheated from anything.
On October 31st 1987 Tom had another stroke/cardiac arrest while leaving the field at Cherokee H.S. after working the game. He died that Monday, November 2nd, at Garden State Hospital. He was 50 years of age. He left behind a wife, 4 children, and 2 grandchildren. Tom had retired from work on Friday.
He was remembered by many in the sports world and business world as someone who was always willing to give back and never too full of himself.
He was truly a good guy!
Joseph E. Shirk, Jr.
Joe was a 1954 graduate of Paulsboro High School. He was active in 4 sports, lettering in Football and Track and Field, receiving All-Star awards in Gloucester Co., Colonial Conference, and Group III leagues, earning him spots in both Gloucester Co. and Paulsboro H.S. Hall of Fame.
Joe became interested in and began football officiating in 1960 with Youth League Football. He soon advanced to high school officiating as Referee. He was chosen to work the first South Jersey Championship in the Atlantic City Convention Hall in 1972.
Joe served as the President of the South Jersey Officials Association, the Camden Chapter of the N.J. Football Officials Association and the Chief Evaluator for the NJFOA Atlantic Chapter.
Joe served 10 years as Commissioner of the Tri-County Youth Football League which comprised 58 + teams and 1,500 players.
Joe was the recipient of Sport Magazine's "Sport Service Award" presented to him on KYW- TV (Phila.)
For most of his adult life, Joe was best known as an outstanding football official. For 20+ years he was a Division I football referee serving as crew chief in games involving LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, USC, Notre Dame, all the Military colleges et al, and worked several bowl games including the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX.
Played semi-pro football for the Berwick Bears in Camden. Hurt his knee and the Doctor told him he should give up playing but suggested he try his hand at officiating.
Started his officiating career in 1935 with the Riverside vs. Cape May high school game. His officiating career will continue for close to 60 years.
Started his college career in 1947, and worked D-III and D-II games and worked his way up to D-IAA and D-IA games throughout the East coast.
In 1951 he was responsible for getting the State Athletic Association at that time to have local assignors assign the games, which at the time were being assigned by the Athletic Directors at each school.
In 1953, he was responsible for getting the State Athletic Association to agree on the fees that are paid to officials. This was the start of the League of League contract.
He was responsible for establishing a Cadet Program and setting up an in-season meeting schedule for the officials group, which started how we trained officials and continued classroom instruction with veteran officials.
He was the second recipient of the Gold Whistle Award, which is NASO’s recognition of outstanding citizens that happen to be sports officials.
Ran the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club for over 50 years.
Was the SJFOA’s 1st and only assignor until 1986.
Worked for the NFL evaluating officials after his college career ended.
He is enshrined in the following Halls of Fame: SJ Sports, Coaches Association, NJSIAA
Officers and Representives
Sub Varsity Assignor
Short Wing Representative
Short Wing Alternate
Deep Wing Representative
Deep Wing Alternate
Clock Operators Representative
Let us know if you have any questions or concerns!