Macon has produced a number of outstanding football players who made it to the NFL, but currently there is just one city product in the league. Former Westside standout Kareem Jackson is a starting defensive back for the Houston Texans after being taken as a first-round draft choice by that team in 2010.
Through the years in the NFL from Macon, we have seen the likes of Jim Parker, the Hall of Fame lineman for the Baltimore Colts, Theron Sapp, who toiled for the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers during seven years in the league, Bobby Bryant, a 13-year standout with the Minnesota Vikings, Steve Wilson, who played his entire 10 year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Julius Adams, who spent 18 seasons with the New England Patriots and who was chosen to their 50th anniversary team in 2009.
Tommy Hart was a standout defensive lineman spending 10 of his 13 years in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Roger Jackson played five seasons at Denver, George Foster played five seasons with the Broncos, J.T. Thomas won four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Craig Hertwig played three seasons with the Detrotit Lion,s and Larry Tharpe played for Pittsburgh and Detroit. There are others, but these are ones who come quickly to mind.
While Jackson was the lone former Macon standout on an NFL roster this season, unfortunately his Houston Texans team failed to make it to the playoffs. But Macon still had a representative in the postseason this year, although his uniform is the black and white officials wear.
If you watched the NFC wild-card matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the 49ers, the field judge in that game was Macon native Terry Brown. Brown was a standout quarterback at Southwest for Edgar Hatcher before going on to Tennessee, where he was a four-year starter at defensive back for Johnny Majors in the mid-1980s. He was an All-SEC selection in 1983. His 1985-86 Tennessee team won the SEC championship and defeated Miami in the Sugar Bowl.
He signed on as a free agent with the San Diego Chargers following his college career, but his hopes were dashed when he suffered a neck injury, ending his NFL dreams. In an attempt to stay in shape, Brown turned to officiating in 1991 calling high school basketball games. As an athlete, he says basketball was his first love, and he just tolerated football. From basketball officiating, he went to high school football, which he worked for six seasons. His next step up was to college football, working in the Southern Conference in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, he joined the SEC as a back judge, and after two seasons in that role, he was promoted to head referee, where he served from 2002 through 2005.
Brown made the jump to the NFL in 2006 as a field judge and is just completing his eighth season. During the fall, he normally calls four preseason and 15 regular-season games. Postseason assignments are awarded by the league on a grading system.
In addition to his job as an NFL official, Brown, who received a criminal justice degree from Tennessee in 1988, has worked as a probation supervisor and court director for the Knox County Juvenile System in his adopted hometown of Knoxville for 23 years. His NFL crew is headed up by referee Terry McAulay, who is from Glenwood Md. The remainder of his crew includes a construction company executive from North Carolina, an engineer from Pennsylvania, another engineer from Indiana, a salesman from Tennessee and a business owner from Ohio.
Brown is not the first Maconite to officiate games in the professional ranks. Frank Glover was an NFL official from 1972 to 1989 becoming just the fourth black official, and the first from the South, to work in the league. He officiated in 14 playoff games.
Being an NFL official is not a bad gig. The salary range is from around $75,000 for first year officials to $230,000 for those with senior status.
Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org