This story was updated Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 9:30 a.m.
This January will mark the 40th year as a high school football referee for Larry Kendrick.
Kendrick, 59, works days as the property and evidence technician for the Fairfax County Police Department, logging evidence for suspected crimes in and out of a basement vault. But come Friday, Kendrick dons black and white, and hits the football field.
“I have reffed at every high school in Fairfax County,” he said. “I have also probably reffed at all the high schools in Loudoun, Fauquier and Prince William counties.”
Over his four-decade career as a high school football referee, Kendrick has run alongside some of professional football’s most highly regarded elites when they still were high school students, including longtime Baltimore Raven Jonathan Ogden, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month.
“He was a big one even in high school,” Kendrick said of the 6’8”, 330-pound Ogden, who played for St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. “He towered over everyone else. You couldn’t miss him.”
He also called games involving three former Westfield High stars — Evan Royster, Eddie Royal and Mike Glennon — who now call the NFL home. Royster is a running back with his hometown Redskins, Royal catches passes for the San Diego Chargers and Glennon is a highly regarded rookie quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“You can just tell sometimes if a kid has got something special and is likely to go all the way,” Kendrick said. “I remember thinking that about each one of those guys.”
Kendrick, who estimates that he has refereed nearly 500 games in his career, says he has no plans to stop, despite a recent knee injury that required surgery.
“It hasn’t slowed me down,” he said. “I train starting each March to stay in shape so I can run up and down the field all night during football games in the fall. I run a few miles a couple times a week, and I do a lot of stretching. When football season begins, I want to be ready because those first few games can be exhausting. It gets better as the season moves forward.”
There also is a good bit of mental preparation, Kendrick said.
“As referees, we get to games at least an hour and a half early and prepare,” he said. “We go over mechanics of the game, rules, play situations and generally prepare mentally for it. You have to control the game. Kids get excited and coaches get excited and parents do, too. You have to be able to keep your head as all that is going on.”
“Larry Kendrick is always professional,” said McLean High School Head Coach Dennis Worek, who has known Kendrick since the late 1980s. “He is always on top of the game and communicates well with both kids and coaches. Sometimes even a head coach needs an explanation of the rules and Larry always expertly provides one, which is much appreciated.”
Kendrick says the game of football has come a long way in four decades, both in the way it is played and in the safety precautions that now have become standard.
“Players keep getting bigger and bigger. Also when I started reffing, Astroturf was just concrete with a layer of synthetic carpet over it,” he said. You felt every step when you had to run on it. Today, the stuff they use is padded and is so much better and safer. I’m also glad to see that Fairfax County is also taking other precautions when it comes to tackling.”
Fairfax County Public Schools recently became the first school district in the United States to adopt USA Football’s Heads Up Football program to promote a safer way of tackling to prevent concussions and other avoidable injuries. “The health and safety of our student-athletes is our number one priority,” said Bill Curran, FCPS director of student activities and athletics. “That is a great thing,” Kendrick said. “I like seeing the game of football is heading in the right direction. Safety should always be the first priority for players.”
Kendrick said he has refereed four state title games, in 1982, 1998, 2009 and 2011, but he’d like to do it again.
“In the end, it is all about the kids,” he said. “Every game is a big game to them. My job is to go out on the field and not get noticed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exciting. I get butterflies every time I step out on the field, and with the good Lord’s help — not to mention a good surgeon and a good physical therapist — I plan to keep doing it.”
In the original version of this story, a statement was attributed to the wrong person.