Young at heart

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Terry Jinright, with white hat, watches as a fellow referee is checked after being hit during a football game in Troy, Ala., Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

It all began with a timeless quote from one of the immortals of the Troy community.

Longtime sports official Scotty Sauers looked at Terry Jinright, who was little more than two games into his officiating career, and said in true Sauers fashion “Laddy, you’re about to be a referee.”

“I’ve been refereeing ever since then,” Jinright said. “I knew the basics but I had a crash course right then.”

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For four decades, Jinright has been under the white cap Friday nights on football fields across the state.

For many, officiating is a part-time job that helps the bottom line at the end of the month. Jinright, however, finds fulfillment in being right where he belongs … between the lines.

“I enjoy being around athletics,” he said. “Being around all those young kids and the game itself helps keep me young.”

Jinright does not limit himself to football, however. He has presided basketball games and continues to be a fixture on the baseball diamond.

Through the years, Jinright has been on the same field as some of the top teams in the state. He has had the honor of officiating seven state championship baseball games, three basketball contests and two championship football games.

“As an official, you strive to get to the championship game,” he said. “I been to several and had guys I’ve worked with call several.”

Constantly recruiting young talent to join the ranks of sports official, seeing an enlistee succeed is always a thrill.

“To see them reach the top of the latter is a reward for me,” said Jinright. “Anytime someone you brought in does well it make you proud.”

Though there have been innumerable memorable moments in his career, two things never get old.

“They have to be legal but I still love to see a good, clean pancake block and a big, hard form tackle.”

One can imagine through 40 years as a referee, the countless highlight reel plays and wild scenarios an official might see. That leads Jinright to his coined saying.

“If it’s been done I’ve seen it, if it’s been said I’ve heard it.”

Jinright, who is the president of the South Central Umpires Association and a board member of the South Central Football Association, has tutored and trained many young officials. After all the years, he says he has two philosophies he teaches.

“Administer the rules properly and do the best job you can possibly do for the players and the coaches,” he said.

“The players have worked hard at what they do and at the high school level, this is the coach’s livelihood. We want to do the best we can for them.”

Jinright says that while the game itself hasn’t changed much over the years, the emphasis on quality officiating has.

“We’re a lot more efficient than we were back then,” he said. “The study habits, the learning process and the techniques are better than they were.”

Having seen and done it all in the officiating world is there a stopping point in sight for Jinright?

“As long as I can do what I’m supposed to do on the field and enjoy it, I’ll be out there.

“I do it for the enjoyment of being around athletics. The guys you work with become like family and that’s what I enjoy.”