WATCH: Brevard’s Neely Dunn Was NFL Side Judge For Six Years, Regional Supervisor of Officials 15 Years
By Space Coast Daily // November 23, 2020
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: When the NFL expanded in 1995, bringing into the league the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the league selected an additional 15 officials, and Neely Dunn was one of those officials.
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME 2017 INDUCTEE
COCOA HIGH GRADUATE
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When talking about Neely Dunn, a former Brevard Public School principal, NFL Regional Supervisor of officials, on-field NFL side judge, husband and dad, adjectives such as loyal, hardworking, sincere, patient, passionate and certainly impartial come to mind.
And, if you ask his childhood sweetheart and wife of 40 years, Betty Dunn, loving, caring, considerate and family-man fit perfectly as well.
Dunn, a Brevard resident his entire life, graduated from Cocoa High in 1972 and earned a scholarship to play football and baseball at South Carolina State.
As he has done in anything he set out to do in his life, Dunn, a humble man, was far better than the average player he portrays himself to be when talking about his days on the gridiron playing fullback for the Bulldogs in the Middle Eastern Atlantic Conference.
Dunn played for legendary head coach Willie Jeffries on his first three teams at South Carolina State and helped him win two conference titles.
Former New York Giants great, and NFL Hall of Famer Harry Carson, was Dunn’s roommate and co-captain of the 1975 team.
In 1976, Dunn served as a graduate assistant under coach Jeffries and was part of a Bulldogs team that captured their first-ever National Black College Football Championship.
Dunn and his wife Betty, who are both graduates of South Carolina State, returned to Brevard County in 1976 and began teaching careers with the Brevard County Public School system, both accepting jobs at their alma mater, Cocoa High School.
Dunn served as JV football head coach, assistant varsity football coach, head football coach, head track coach and Athletic Director while Betty worked her way through the school system as a teacher and administrator.
Both would work 60 combined years for Brevard County Schools in several capacities.
Dunn began his days as a football official on the field at the high school level, eventually joining the MEAC, his college alma mater’s conference as an official.
It didn’t take long for a larger conference to recognize Dunn’s talents in calling games, and after one year in the MEAC, he was hired by the mighty SEC where he would spend the next nine seasons as a downfield official and side judge.
The NFL expanded teams in 1995 bringing into the league the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. The league selected an additional 15 officials that year as part of the officiating staff.
Dunn was very humbled to be one of those officials.
At the urging of his friend and longtime NFL referee legend, Johnny Greer, Dunn applied and was accepted into the league. He began his career overseas in NFL Europe in 1993, and while working there in 1995, got the call to come back to the states to join the NFL.
For the next six years, Dunn could be seen standing 20 yards from the line of scrimmage, calling pass interference, holding and other penalties. Being an NFL official wasn’t considered a full-time job, so Dunn stayed in the school system working then as the Principal at McNair Magnet School.
Organized and efficient are two more adjectives that can be used to describe Dunn. NFL officials are required to spend numerous time training, studying rule books and taking weekly tests.
Then there is the extensive travel. For Monday night games, Dunn would return early Tuesday morning, and the weekly process would begin again.
“Being a referee was natural,” said Dunn. “I’d been around football all my life. I felt I had a pretty good grasp, and it was a way to stay around the game.”
In 2001, Dunn interviewed for a Supervisor of Officials position and was selected for one of the two positions available. Dunn retired from the field and had to move to New York where he lived for seven years, away from his wife and now son Courtney, who had just started college.
Technology would eventually allow Dunn to do his job for nine years from the confines of his beautiful home in Viera which he did with perfection until his retirement this past April 7.
Dunn says that being in the NFL wasn’t a goal, “It just happened and I’m glad it did.” I’ve enjoyed our 22 years with the NFL.
Officials in any sport know that if they don’t hear their name being called after games, then they did their job well.
From husband to Principal to Supervisor of NFL officials, Dunn has done all his jobs in life well, so well in fact that you can add another adjective when describing Neely Dunn, Hall of Famer.
CLICK HERE to see all the members of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2021 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Announced, Induction Ceremony Set May 12
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame selection committee elected an impressive array of outstanding individuals to be inducted into the 2017 Class of the Hall of Fame.
Dozens of nominees were considered for the 2017 class in four categories including professional sports, college sports, high school sports and amateur sports.
Special honorary recognition will also be bestowed upon individuals and teams that have made significant contributions to sports on the Space Coast.
Space Coast Daily created the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and has so far inducted more than 100 of Brevard County’s most outstanding athletes, coaches and sports personalities.
Serving on the committee are Space Coast Daily President & Publisher Tom Palermo, Vice President Giles Malone, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo, Managing Editor Zach Clark, Friday Night Locker Room Founders Steve Wilson and Orville Susong, former Health First COO Larry Garrison and AAU Vice President Rusty Buchanan.
“The list of inductees for 2017 induction include athletes and coaches everybody knows – and some that may have been forgotten with the passing of time,” said Tom Palermo.
INDUCTION GALA & SPORTS AWARDS
The 2017 Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet and Sports Awards was held Friday, May 12 at the Cocoa Beach County Club.
The festivities included a meet and greet with the area’s sports royalty, dinner and the induction proceeding which includes compelling video tributes of each of the inductees.
The 2017 Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame induction event, and the 2017 High School Breakfast of Champions recognition awards, are sponsored by Clear Choice Health Care, Savings Safari, Spectrum Sports, Friday Night Locker Room, Dr. Sangiv Patel, Dr. Mark Pinsky and Rock Paper Simple.
FOR INFORMATION about the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame, or to make a reservation, e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com or call 321-615-8111.
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Tim Wakefield talks about his induction into the first class of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2017
• PROFESSIONAL CATEGORY INDUCTEES: Joe Kohlbrand, Football; and Cory Philpot, Football
• COLLEGE CATEGORY INDUCTEES: Jason Arnold, Baseball; Michael Coffey, Bowling; Reggie Hannah, Basketball; Paige Kearns, Swimming; and Charles Wilson, Football.
• PREP CATEGORY INDUCTEES: Kristen Gordon, Softball; Ray Herring, Jr. Football; Katie Jackson, Soccer; and Hunter Pingston, Football.
• AMATEUR/REC CATEGORY INDUCTEES: Richard Chapman, Little League; Todd Erickson, Softball; Al Genchi, Youth Soccer; and David Kilgore, Running.
• COACHING CATEGORY INDUCTEES: Skip Arrich, Soccer; Tom Dooley, Baseball; Chuck Keener, Tennis; Steve Lamontagne, Golf; and Mike Soliven, Basketball.
• SPORTS DEVELOPMENT INDUCTEES: Jeff Carr, Eastern Florida State College; and Steve Englehart, Florida Tech.
• LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT INDUCTEES: Linda Anderson, Athletic Director; and Les Stafford, Volunteer
• SPORTS OFFICIALS INDUCTEES: Neely Dunn and Bob Walton.
• SPORTS JOURNALISM INDUCTEES: Hillard Grossman.
• SPORTS AMBASSADOR AWARD INDUCTEE: Gary Gregory, PAL Boxing.
• CHALLENGER AWARDS INDUCTEES: Brevard Special Olympics – Coach Cindy Dropeski, Athlete Chuck Conway and Volunteer Kathi Madden.
• TEAM OF THE YEAR: Cocoa High School 2016 Football State Champions.
• SPECIAL TRIBUTE: Jim Grimes, Basketball, Eastern Florida State College
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE MEMBERS OF THE SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME