WYOMING, Mich. — On the football field, there isn't much that surprises Dino Paganelli.
As a veteran official of the last 34 years, the Wyoming native has seen it all.
“It started when I was a senior in high school,” he reflects.
And refereed some of the biggest events in the history of the sport.
“The ball bounces right sometimes and you're fortunate,” he smiles.
But even he admits, he had no idea what expect this time around.
“The call came the Tuesday after the divisional in New Orleans with Tampa Bay,” he remembers.
The Bucs would go on to make the Super Bowl and there waiting for them in Tampa was the 53-year-old Paganelli, who was assigned to work the event.
“You heard the rumors, though the association, that's it’s going to be a lockdown type Super Bowl,” he says. “And it was.”
This would be Paganelli's second time officiating the big game and looking back now, he admits it was nothing like the first.
“I traveled in on Thursday night. It was Friday, Saturday, Sunday, football, football, football, football, and non-family.”
Paganelli's kids joined him down in Florida but due to league rules he couldn't see them until after game. He looked for them prior to kickoff and was a bit confused by what he saw in the stands.
“I said, ‘There's not a lot of social distancing going on,’” Paganelli recalled. “Well the fans just blended in with the cardboard.”
Everything seemed off until it was time to play.
“It definitely felt like a Super Bowl. The intensity and the speed of the game and the hype is all there.”
And as the clock ran out and the confetti fell, Paganelli couldn’t help but reflect on what he'd experienced.
“Any Super Bowl is a fond memory,” he explains. The effort and the dedication, it was no different getting there, if not probably harder for both players and officials.”
It was sports history and Paganelli is now a part of it.
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