Bill Leavy, Longtime NFL Referee, Dead at 76

Bill Leavy, a longtime NFL official who worked in the league as a back judge and referee, died on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. He was 76 years old. Leavy retired from officiating following the 2014 season to take a supervisory role with the officiating department. He held that position until his death, and the cause of death has not been revealed. 

"We are saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Leavy, a longtime NFL referee and a current member of the league's officiating staff," NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson said in a statement, per Football Zebras. "Bill was an outstanding official and an even better man. Always kind and thoughtful, Bill was instrumental in mentoring countless young officials throughout his career.  His recognition as an Art McNally Award winner highlights that selfless dedication to officiating.  His integrity earned him respect at every step of his football journey and the entire officiating community mourns his loss."

In his NFL officiating career, Leavy worked 15 playoff games. He was promoted to referee in 2001 and worked Super Bowl XL in 2006. In 2010, Leavy talked about the mistakes he made in the game. "It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly," he said, per The Mercury News. 

Leavy, who died three days after his birthday, was a retired police officer and firefighter from Santa Barbara, California. He graduated from San Jose State and retired 25 years ago from working for the city of San Jose. He began his officiating career at the Santa Clara Valey high school circuit before moving on to college and the NFL. 

"I was at work at the fire station, and Jerry Seeman called," Leavy told a reporter in 2002. "I said, 'Yeah, sure, Jerry Seeman.' I figured someone was setting me up for a joke. But he told me that I was one of 12 finalists, and to come to New York for an interview in January."  

Leavy then talked about the call that changed his life. "It was March 27, 1995, and Jerry Seeman told me the words every official wants to hear: 'Welcome to the National Football League,'" Leavy recalled. "It was probably one of the most exciting days of my life."