MANHATTAN (KSNT) – One Kansas high school referee is celebrating 50 years on the job, but this wasn’t any ordinary party.
Instead of watching high school football games from the sideline, George Ebert spent his Friday watching several games from the sky. In honor of his 50-year anniversary of being a KSHSAA referee, Ebert’s daughter Heather Williams, arranged a special surprise.
“Actually, some of his old friends stopped and asked me, or told me, about his dream at a basketball game in Sabetha one night,” Williams said.
She said Ebert’s dream was to fly over football fields where he’s refereed. Heather set up the flight, which took off from Manhattan Regional Airport Friday evening and circled fields as far as Topeka before returning back to Manhattan.
Even if it involves looking on from a private plane, Ebert has only missed one Friday night of football in his 50-year career. He suffered a neck injury in 1986 and had to take a game off.
Ebert is now 68 years old, but he first started officiating high school games with a few friends back in 1974, when he was 18 years old. He developed an interest in being a referee after his high school superintendent suggested he take an officiating course at Kansas State University.
“It helped us through college and got out debt-free by referring probably 20,000 games in the last 50 years,” Ebert said.
He spent his first night of his career officiating a football game at Axtell High School in Axtell, Kansas, which was one of the locations he made sure to fly over Friday night.
He splits his time between being a hay and cattle farmer and officiating multiple high school games each week. Over the past five decades, Ebert has refereed thousands of basketball, baseball and football games, including a few of Heather’s when she was in high school.
“My senior night he worked out with both teams and had it that he could be there,” Williams said. “He was in his uniform on the court, ran into the locker room, changed clothes came back out in parent clothes, and went back and got his uniform on. So, he was able to celebrate my senior night with me as well.”
When asked if he could pick out a favorite memory from his storied career, Ebert didn’t specify a single moment. Instead, he mentioned the people he’s met along the way. He said there are a lot of good people in a lot of places, and he always loves attending small-town games with large crowds.
Ebert said he’s made connections with tons of athletes over the years and is still in touch with many of them. He also prides himself in recruiting somewhere between 400 and 500 officials over the course of his career.
“They’re some of my best friends now,” Ebert said. “And all the schools, there’s somebody in every community that I know and would call a friend and could count on if I needed something, if I break down with my semi in their town.”
Ebert told 27 News he plans to keep officiating for as long as he can, or at least as long as his knee will allow it.
He hopes to add at least 1,000 more games to the 20,000 he already has under his belt before he hangs up the stripes.