For Tommy Edwards, officiating football games over the years has been something wonderful and fulfilling, a way to keep his hands upon the sport he loves.
Edwards first began refereeing youth football games in Alexandria city in 1962 before eventually going on to work both high school and youth contests over the years throughout Northern Virginia. He became regarded as one of the most highly respected and popular officials in the area.
"I had the utmost respect for Tommy Edwards and his crew," said former Mount Vernon football coach Bruce Patrick. "He was a top notch official. You knew it was going to be a very fairly officiated game."
Edwards, who concluded his full-time officiating career last fall, simply loved working games.
"You just don't know how much I looked forward to Friday nights," said Edwards, who resides in Mount Vernon with his wife Joan. "[Working high school] varsity [games] — that was the epitome to me."
This Sunday (March 3), Edwards will be formally honored for his years of service to the game when he is inducted into the Fairfax County Football Hall of Fame. Ceremonies will take place at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel in Vienna.
AN ALEXANDRIA GEM
Edwards treated every game — high school or youth — as if it was a major event.
"[Whether] he was working a youth anklebiter or 75-pound [game], he performed as if it was a Friday night [high school game]," said Mark Meana, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Fairfax County Youth Football League which is inducting Edwards. "He goes out there and knows how to handle the show."
Edwards, born and raised in Alexandria, grew up playing sports in the city. He had a stellar athletic career at old George Washington High School. There, he played football under coaches Jim Ford and Steve Osisek, and baseball under Nubby Schreiner. He once was named the Alexandria Gazettes's Athlete of the Week for his prowess in a football game versus Episcopal in 1960.
After graduating from high school in 1961, Edwards began officiating youth football and high school freshman and JV games in Alexandria.
Away from the football field, Edwards made a living as a member of the Alexandria city fire department. While growing up, his father, Joe Edwards, had been a fireman at the old No. 1 station in Alexandria, and Tommy wanted to follow in his fathers' footsteps. And he did, working as a city firefighter from 1967 before retiring as a lieutenant in charge of facilities in 1998.
IN CONTROL OF THE GAME
In 1968, Edwards joined the Northern Virginia Football Officials' Association (NVFOA). He was doing high school varsity games at this time, and would be a fixture for years to come.
"I take pride in officiating," said Edwards. "I believed when I walked on that football field, I was working with the best crew in Northern Virginia."
Edwards' crew for many years consisted of himself (referee), John Balis (line judge), Dave Watkins (back judge), Paul Rucker (umpire), and Vic Reed (linesman).
Edwards' last game as a full-time referee came last fall when his crew worked the Div. 6 region title contest between Robinson and Centreville.
"It was kind of sad, but it was [also] great," said Edwards. "My father, 81 [years old], came to watch me do my last ball game. And my in-laws from Minnesota were there."
Also in attendance was his wife and two daughters — Kimberly and Melissa. Edwards recalls walking up to the field for the game that day and seeing his daughter, Kimbery, in the stands. She was wearing an old officials' jersey with her father's number `4' etched on the back in tribute to him.
"I heard, 'yeah dad,'" recalled Edwards. "She turned around and had my number on."
BLEEDS BURGANDY AND GOLD
Along with officiating, another passion for Edwards over the years has been the Washington Redskins. A season ticket holder since 1966, Edwards is known for his terrific tailgate party's in the stadium parking lot prior to home games.
"We just love the team," said Edwards, whose entire downstairs is decorated with Redskins souvenirs, collectibles and pictures.