NFL official reflects on Super Bowl games

Matthew Clark

Even though Mark Hittner has been a National Football League official for the last 13 years and has numerous stories about his experiences, there is one recent game that sticks out.

On Sept. 14, 2008, Hittner was officiating the game between Denver and San Diego in which referee Ed Hochuli ruled a pass from Broncos’ quarterback Jay Cutler, which slipped out of his hands right to a San Diego defender, an incomplete pass that kept the ball with Denver.

The Broncos ultimately won the game 39-38.

“For about a week after that call, we didn’t say anything to Hochuli,” said Hittner, a 1979 graduate of Pittsburg State University who received a Meritorious Achievement Award on Friday night during PSU commencement. “Two weeks later, though, we gave him so much static about a pass-fumble.”

Hittner has officiated 10 post-season assignments including Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XL, in addition to four wild-card, one divisional, and two conference championship games.

He played college football at PSU from 1976-1979, where he was an all-conference quarterback. He was named team MVP his junior and senior years. He was team captain his senior year, and set a record as PSU's second-leading career passer in yards (4,830).

He also holds the record for the most interceptions in a career (38).

“Friends remind me of that when I get a little big-headed,” Hittner said. “It is the only record that can manage to stick around.”

He began officiating junior high and high school football in 1980, and spent 13 seasons as a college football official in the Big Eight/Big Twelve Conference beginning in 1984.

It was then that Hittner got the idea of applying for the NFL to officiate.

“I had some friends that were in the Big 8 and went on to the NFL and they told me that I should apply,” Hittner said.

So he applied, worked in NFL Europe for two years before starting his first season as an NFL official in 1997.

Hittner has worked as a referee in the NFL for the past 12 years. He served as an official in the last three of six Super Bowls, most recently in Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5, 2006, between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He works as a head linesman and wears the uniform number 28.

Being honored by his alma mater was not something that he expected but, as he puts it, anything can happen.

“I never really expected to be an NFL official either,” Hittner said.

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140. Follow Morning Sun sports at twitter.com/mssports.