Paul King hits the big time

One of the best officials around and one of the nicest people to boot, Paul King, Jr. finally got “the call” to become an NFL referee.

Our own Jennifer Toland caught up with him earlier this week (link here: http://www.telegram.com/article/20090806/NEWS/908060729) and in today’s Boston Globe, another great guy, Mike Reiss, tossed a few questions of his own at King.

A touchdown’s worth of questions for Paul King, a 46-year-old Worcester native who is entering his rookie season as an NFL umpire and worked Patriots training camp last week:

What is your background in officiating?

“I started holding the chains when I was at Doherty High School. I had an injury to my knee as a sophomore, and had to give up football. My father and uncle both officiated so I decided to start officiating. I did Pop Warner, high school, Division 3, 2, 1-AA, and 1, and here I am.’’

So it was the injury that led you to officiating?

“Pretty much. I gave up my football playing days. I played baseball and traveled with my father to games, holding the chains when I had a chance. I developed a passion for it. In addition to my father and uncle, my brother is an official as well. So there are four Kings on the field. This is a proud moment for us.’’

Was making it to the NFL something you were always striving for?

“To begin with, I really wanted to do a major bowl game. At that point, you just keep striving and want to be the best you can be. I had NFL aspirations. I worked four years in [NFL] Europe, and eight years in the Arena [League] season, including what could possibly be the last Arena game – last year’s Arena Bowl. I was in the Big East for eight seasons as well. [NFL referee] Terry McAulay is my boss in the Big East, and with him and the guys I’ve met, they’ve helped me out and here I am.’’

How did you learn about the news?

“I teach at a middle school in Worcester, and my daughter happened to be in my class last year. I was teaching an eighth-grade math class with 30 students and [NFL director of officiating] Mike Pereira called on the inside line and said, ‘I’d like you to come work for me.’ I had my tears in my eyes. I was out of breath and all the kids were looking at me, especially my daughter. She didn’t know if someone had passed away – if it was sadness or joy. I hung up the phone and said, ‘I’m in the NFL.’ She came up in front of 30 eighth-graders, she’s 14 years old, and gave me a hug. We kind of cried together. It was late February and I went out that night and refereed a high school basketball game. I wasn’t sure if my feet were going to hit the ground.’’

What have you done since then to prepare for the 2009 season?

“We’ve been doing tests and film study, so [Wednesday] was the first time to be seen in public in the uniform. It’s been a long process of studying film, rules. We do that continually, but it was just nice to get on the field. It was the first time in probably 15 years that I hadn’t done college scrimmages in the spring or Arena Football in the spring. I’ve been inactive since December, so it was great to get back out here.’’

Any other thoughts before embarking on your first season?

“It’s a lot of stress on the family, and it’s great that we did it together.’’

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