SWFL lawyer retires from 25-year career as NFL official

Reporter: Taylor Petras Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
SWFL Attorney J. Jeffrey Rice, an NFL umpire of 25 years, made the decision to retire from his services as a pro football referee ahead of turning 70 years old. Credit: WINK News.

A law practice in Southwest Florida is different because one of its attorneys is also a professional NFL official whose career spans multiple decades.

Attorney J. Jeffrey Rice of Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice and Purtz, P.A. has officiated more than 400 NFL games, including four Super Bowls.

We spoke to Rice Monday, who said he is ready to hang up the whistle and retire from his NFL officiating duties.

Rice knows what it’s like be a part of the biggest game in sports.

“It’s electric. You can feel it. You can feel the electricity, the excitement,” Rice said.

Rice most recently officiated during Super Bowl 50 between victor Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.

“Once they kick off the ball, it’s just another game,” Rice said. “And, quite frankly, it’s one of the easiest games to work because you’ve got the two best teams. And there’s so much on the line that they’re not going to do something stupid or create stupid fouls, so it’s really not a hard game to work at all.”

But Rice is hanging up his stripes and retiring after 25 years as an NFL umpire, one of the positions as an official. He got to watch Super Bowl 54 Sunday from a different vantage point.

“I don’t watch it like everybody else does. I watch the officials,” Rice said. “The two pass interference calls were no brainers, easy. The call regarding the touchdown, the official did the exact correct thing. Rule it a touchdown, so we have an automatic review.”

Rice, who turns 70 years old next week, will soon have a plaque in the Pro Football Hall of Fame thanks to his 25 years of service.

Rice has the utmost respect for his fellow officials and the effort that goes into officiating at the NFL level.

“I tell people you just cannot appreciate how quick and fast these guys are and how quickly everything happens on the field,” Rice said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

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