Born an Aggie
NFL official, 'First Down' author reflects on experiences
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 23:09
Texas Sports Hall of Famer Red Cashion is one of few people who can truly call Texas A&M’s campus home. The retired NFL official was born on A&M’s campus in 1931 where his father worked as secretary of the YMCA Building.
After deciding he wouldn’t work out as a football player, he began officiating games in 1952 as a junior at A&M. This was only the beginning of what became a 25-year career in the NFL, where he officiated both Super Bowl XX and Super Bowl XXX.
“I wasn’t any good [at football] so I didn’t bother trying, but my sophomore year I began to [complain] to somebody that I wished I had tried,” Cashion said. “Somebody said, ‘Well, why don’t you try officiating?’ I started officiating my junior year at A&M and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Cashion’s pursuit to become an NFL official, and the many things he learned from his job, is detailed in his book “First Dooowwwnnn… And Life To Go” co-authored by Rusty Burson. Cashion will be signing copies of the book Friday at the College Station Barnes & Noble from 4-6 p.m.
“I like to ask [readers] what they think of [the book],” Cashion said. “I like to ask them why they like to have a copy. I enjoy people. I’m always amazed at some of the answers I get. I like to say, ‘I hope you enjoyed the book and I hope you’ll tell me what you like about it.’”
In his book, Cashion detailed his perseverance as continued to pursue officiating after he was fired by both the Southland and Southwest Conferences.
“The [Southland] said, ‘The coaches just don’t think you’re interested enough in officiating,’” Cashion said. “The [Southwest] was a little different. In those days they would just have however many officials and you would show up and figure out who was going to do what. About that time they began to go to crews. The Southwest Conference went to crews and they did it on the basis of seniority so since I had only been with the conference for a couple years, they didn’t include me. Fortunately I was able to go back to the Southwest Conference two years later.”
His firing from the Southland Conference made Cashion realize he needed to have emotion in his officiating, which resulted in his now famous first down draw. His call became so famous, it became the voice of officials on the Madden video game for several years.
“At that time I thought an official had to be stoic and a traffic cop and that’s not true at all,” Cashion said. “I decided to enjoy it more. I wanted to be a little different so I came out with the idea of doing that. It’s unbelievable how it caught on. I’ve had crazy, crazy, experiences with people coming up and hollering ‘First Down.’”
Cashion’s love for football and officiating started at A&M where his brother, Jim, was the first freshman quarterback to ever start for the Aggie football team in 1943.
“In those days football wasn’t quite as big as it is today, but neither was the school,” Cashion said. “I don’t know that when you get down to it that the hype that a freshman could play quarterback at a major college wasn’t any different today than it was then. I’m sure there’s a whole lot of difference between my brother and Johnny [Manziel] but still he was the most valuable player on the team as a freshman. That was a pretty big thing in those days.”
Now retired and living in College Station, Cashion stays current with A&M and said he was beyond excited with the Aggie’s 2012 season.
Cashion said he “cheered for a month” when A&M upset No. 1 Alabama a year ago and that Manziel is the most amazing player he’s ever seen play. With Manziel’s scrambling ability while running an up-tempo offense, Cashion sees how he can create problems for defenses and officials alike.
“I think that you’ve got to gear yourself just as the defense does,” Cashion said. “You have to keep your eyes on him. From an officiating standpoint he would require a little bit more concentration but the same rules apply to him.”
While he will be remembered as one of the best football officials of all-time by many, Cashion hopes he can leave a lasting impression on readers young and old to learn from experiences in life and to have fun doing it.
“I wanted people to know to have fun in what you do and you have to work at it, and work at it hard,” Cashion said. “You have to take risks. If you wait for everything to come to you, it won’t. You have to go after it and I think that’s very important.”