The NFL lost one of its most iconic referees this week as Ben Dreith passed away. He was 96 years old.
Dreith played baseball, basketball and football at the University of Northern Colorado-Greeley and was a multiple-time all-conference selection in baseball and basketball. He began working as a football official with the AFL in 1960, and joined the NFL after the merger.
In a statement, NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson called Dreith “one of the most respected referees” in the game. He admired Dreith for his “with and description of the action” and praised his passion for the game.
“Ben was one of the most respected referees in football,” Anderson said in a statement. “While his wit and description of the action on the field will be remembered by everyone, his commitment and passion to the game was something all of us as game officials aspire to emulate.”
Dreith would officiate two Super Bowls during a 30-year career as a referee.
But no call in Dreith’s career is more well-known than his iconic “givin’ him the business” call in 1986.
During a game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, Jets DT Marty Lyons started punching Bills QB Jim Kelly. After the dust settled, Dreith gave the Jets a 15-yard personal foul penalty but then gave one of the greatest explanations for a penalty ever:
“There’s a personal foul, on number 99 of the defense. After he tackled the quarterback, he’s givin’ him the business down there,” Dreith said as he started mimicking elbow shots. “That’s a 15-yard penalty.”
Our hearts go out to Mr. Dreith’s family and loved ones.