Hanover resident Ron Torbert will serve as referee for Super Bowl 56 on Sunday between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, an honor he described as “certainly the highlight” of his 33-year officiating career.
Torbert, 58, began his NFL officiating career in 2010 after working at the high school and college level for more than two decades. He worked as a back judge and side judge for four seasons before becoming a referee, the leader of his crews, in 2014. This is his first Super Bowl.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment for more than 30 years,” he said in recorded remarks provided by the NFL. “I didn’t always know that’s what I was doing, but every game I worked, every clinic, every training camp and practice that I’ve been a part of, every moment at the gym, every training and scouting video that I’ve ever watched, has helped me get ready for this game.”
Torbert was “humbled and proud” when Walt Anderson, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, called to say he would work Sunday’s game. He called it the highlight of his career and a treat for his family. “It’s validation of a lot of years of hard work and study,” he said. “It means I have the opportunity to take the field in the biggest game in our sport.”
Torbert is a Harvard-educated attorney who worked as corporate counsel for Barton Malow, a construction and contracting company with 15 offices across North America, before he retired in 2019.
He began officiating high school and rec league games in Michigan in 1989, moved to NCAA Division II a decade later and then to the Big Ten from 2006 to 2009.
Torbert made a controversial call against the Ravens in 2015 when he did not see offensive linemen John Urschel declare himself eligible before a red-zone catch against the Arizona Cardinals. The resulting illegal formation penalty pushed the Ravens back, and they settled for a field goal in what would ultimately be a 26-18 loss. The NFL’s vice president of officiating subsequently said Torbert made a mistake in not recognizing Urschel’s signal.
That miscue aside, the league has routinely chosen Torbert for postseason assignments (three wild-card and six divisional-round games), a sign of the high esteem in which he’s held. He worked as a side judge for one of the most famous games in Ravens history, the team’s 38-35 double-overtime victory over the Denver Broncos in the 2012 AFC divisional round.
This season, Torbert’s crews called 1.74 fewer penalties per game than the league average, according to Pro Football Reference, continuing a penalty-light trend that has held for most of his 12-year career.
He described his evolution as an official: “I’ve been blessed to work with and be mentored by the very best officials in the world. I’ve learned something from each of them. I’ve learned how to be a student of the game as well as a student of officiating. I’ve learned the importance of being a rules expert but also how to apply the rules with common sense and fairness. And I’ve learned how to relate to coaches and players.”
NFL, Sports, NFL wire