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Sports Talk: Jimbo’s made his final call

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By Robert Howey

I am not my brother’s keeper, so I’m not quite sure where he is today, the first Sunday of the 2018 NFL season.

I know where he won’t be.

Jimbo, my oldest brother, has made his last call in the NFL. He retired last spring along with six other officials, who hung up their whistles for the final time.

Since the 1999 pro football season, he’s been at a NFL stadium to call a game, but not today. That’s 19 seasons, but for him that’s enough.

Some years back I recall going to his home to watch a Super Bowl.

He shared a letter from the league about the possibility of joining the ranks of the NFL officials. The league said they would, at some point unknown to him, be at a game to see him at work.

At that time, he was calling ACC football games. He had seen some fellow college officials move into the NFL, and he felt good about giving pro football officiating a shot.

Basically, if they could do it, he felt he could as well.

It worked out, but, of course, that was just the start, the tip of the whistle.

He called games in NFL Europe, and there were seemingly endless clinics, training sessions, interviews and physical requirements. It takes a lot to be calling at the highest level of football.

Seems each spring and summer, he always had his nose buried in a rulebook and boning up on the latest rules in preparation for an upcoming season. Then, there was training camp, exhibition games and a new season.

With all that work and preparation, I knew he was deeply committed to being in the NFL, but it really hit home one Sunday afternoon early in his career when he was calling a game in San Francisco.

The game was on TV, and there was an issue with the clock.

Commentator Greg Gumbel called his name, something like Jim Ho-wee, and it really sunk in as I watched him jog down the field to help solve the issue.

“Man, that’s Jimbo going down the field, the guy who used to spot me eight points when we played one-on-one driveway basketball at our Sherwood Circle home, and still beat me to 10,” I said to myself. “He’s made it, he really made it.

“And by the way, Greg, it’s Howey, like “How we.”

Then there was another time when he called a game in Atlanta and broke up an on-field scuffle.

Our den phone rang and the voice on the other end, a childhood friend, said, “I just saw Jimbo breaking up a fight in a Falcons game on TV.”

My friend added Jimbo had early practice doing something similar with fisticuffs involved when he drove his school bus years back.

After that, seeing No. 37 became familiar on Sunday afternoons and nights, Monday and Thursday nights.

Seems like each week during the season, somebody would always ask, “Where’s Jimbo calling this week?”

Of course, it wasn’t all easy. He endured his share of injuries, mostly to his knees, and was sidelined at times. Then, there was a season when he had a bout with breast cancer, but he pressed on, doing what his doctors said and plenty of praying, to keep doing something he dearly loved.

He also changed positions,