Football official celebrates 60 seasons on the sidelines


60 seasons of high school football.

That’s more than 500 Friday nights spent under the lights.

86-year-old Wink Willoughby earned his stripes.

“At 86 it’s good to be anyplace, but I love being on the football field.”

A young 86-years-old, Willoughby has served as a high school football official since 1959. He’s never missed a season.

One year he had surgery and couldn’t run the sidelines, so he worked in the booth for a game. “For the sake of continuity,” he says.

“I’ve been blessed. The Lord’s given me good health,” Willoughby said. “The ability to do this and work with young people is great.”

Willoughby played high school football in Nashville. His love of the game carried him into a job that’s served him for over a half a century.

He’s called multiple state championship games. These days he serves as the Electric Clock Operator.

But his favorite part of the job is interacting with young people.

“You never know what you might say to encourage one.”

The play-clock is winding down. Wink will step away from the sidelines after officiating two games this season.

He wants to leave the game on his own time.

As for what he’ll miss the most?

“One word: football.”

Football will surely miss Wink, too.

©TEGNA Inc. 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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