BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Former football official Brian Carder worked two Division I state championship games. He also was an official during the former Big 33 game, which pitted the best of Ohio high school players against those from Pennsylvania.
Carder, a Maumee resident and a 1970 graduate of Central Catholic High School, was recently inducted into the Ohio High School Officials Hall of Fame. He has plenty of stories from more than three decades as a football official.
One of the favorites didn’t come during a game but instead from a University of Michigan practice scrimmage in the late 1990s.
The Wolverines’ starting quarterback Brian Griese was suspended for an offseason rules infraction, so coach Lloyd Carr was using his backups.
Carder saw a “tall, skinny kid with long hair coming out of his helmet” leading the No. 1 offense in a goal-line situation against the No. 1 defense at the end of practice. The defense stuffed anything the offense tried to do on two straight downs, leading the quarterback to scream some obscenities at his offensive teammates.
“You could have heard a pin drop,” Carder said. “It got really quiet.”
According to Carder, the coach strolled over to the quarterback and asked, “What did you say?” before making him run laps around the practice facility.
When they got back to the officials’ locker room afterward, one of the crew said, “I bet that’s the last time we’ll ever see that Brady kid.”
Yes, Brady, as in Tom Brady.”
Carder was inducted with the rest of his class during a banquet in Columbus. He said it was an overwhelming feeling and something he had never really considered before actually getting the call.
“I’m obviously humbled by getting this,” Carder said. “If you look at the roster (of the Hall of Fame), I’m the ninth (football official) to go in from the Toledo area.”
After Carder’s playing days at Central Catholic were over, he was looking for ways to stay involved with the sport he loved. He first tried coaching while he was a student at The University of Toledo and then found officiating. It checked all the boxes for him.
“I got into football officiating kind of by accident,” Carder said. “I say that because no one grows up wanting to be an official. I wanted to be Ted Williams or Johnny Unitas or someone when I was kid.”
He went from officiating freshman games during the week and junior varsity games on Saturday mornings to varsity contests under the lights on Fridays.
As he rose up the ranks, he began calling games on Saturdays in the Ohio Athletic Conference, which includes Mount Union and Ohio Northern, along with other schools scattered throughout central and northeastern Ohio.
“It just became a nice outlet,” Carder said. “I got some of my friends into it. For me, being in business and not playing anymore, it was a way for me to keep running, stay in shape and so forth.”
Carder worked D-I state championships in 2000 and ‘04, as well as the 2000 Ohio North-South All-Star game and ‘03 Big 33 game in Hershey, Pa.
He was on the board of the Northwest District Football Officials Association for 20 years. Carder had been a member of the Ohio Association of Football Officials since 1988, serving as a past president and secretary-treasurer.
Carder left high school officiating in 2007 and college officiating four years later. While he’s not on the field any more, Carder remains involved with football officiating. He’s an official observer for the OHSAA and OAC, and he scouts officials for the NFL.
“If you wanted to find the ideal umpire for a football game, you would choose Brian,” Kevin Katafias said in his nomination letter. Katafias was the referee for many of Carder’s games.
“Great rules knowledge, outstanding mechanics, always hustling and managed the game with the players and coaches.
“Brian is a very humble person, so promoting himself is not a trait he relishes, but helping others certainly is a trait he has formulated in his career.”
As the state continues to struggle to find officials to work games, Carder suggests former players look at it as a way to stay active and involved.
“A lot of ex-players don’t realize, once that senior season is over, most of them are done, they’ll never see the field again,” he said. “Next Friday night lights they’ll see, they’ll have to buy a ticket.”
Carder has had opportunities to work scrimmages at Big Ten universities and NCAA Division III national semifinals, but what he loved the most came much closer to home.
“The thing that I liked, it really was fun to drive maybe half-an-hour to an hour, to Tiffin or Fostoria, some of those games … and you just knew everybody was excited,” Carder said. “Playing is not like officiating, but it’s awfully close.”