Dean Blandino would have preferred to play football as a career rather than officiate it.
But the Bellmore native, who played tight end and defensive end at Mepham High School, realized a pro career wasn't in the cards. At least not as a player. But Blandino still is connected to the sport he loves and now holds the highest office in the NFL's officiating department.
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He was named vice president of officiating Thursday, taking over for Carl Johnson, who will become a full-time on-field official next season.
"It's not something I thought about early on, or even being involved in officiating," Blandino, 41, told Newsday. "I wanted to play football, not ref it. But I always wanted to stay involved in sports, and the NFL had an internship available in officiating, and it kind of evolved from there."
After graduating from Hofstra in 1993 with a degree in communications, Blandino joined the NFL for the 1994 season as an officiating intern. After that season, he was hired full-time as an officiating video assistant, then was promoted to special projects coordinator.
The Brooklyn resident was an NFL instant replay official from 1999-2003 and was the replay official for two Super Bowls and two conference championship games. He managed the instant replay program from 2003-09 and was No. 2 in the department under Mike Pereira from 2007-09.
In 2009, Blandino formed his own company, "Under the Hood," which trained and evaluated NFL and college replay officials. He directed instant replay clinics for the NFL and NCAA and served as a liaison to the NFL Competition Committee.
In 2012, he rejoined the NFL as a director of officiating, supervising instant replay.
"Dean has been in football officiating for the past 20 years and has made it his life," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He is highly respected by our game officials and coaches for his deep and thorough knowledge of the rules. He also has extensive management leadership experience in the NFL and as a business entrepreneur.''
As the point man for officiating, Blandino will answer questions about controversial calls. Such as the one late in Sunday's Super Bowl, when a fourth-down pass by the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick fell incomplete after Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith appeared to interfere with wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
On fourth-and-goal from the Ravens' 5-yard line with 1:50 to play and Baltimore ahead 34-29, Crabtree ran a fade route to the right corner of the end zone. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh argued for a holding call on Smith, who had his hands on Crabtree during the play.
Blandino said the officials got the call right. "When you watch it at full speed, to me, it was a good non-call," he said. "I think the first thing you have to understand is that once the ball is in the air, you can't have defensive holding or illegal contact. Now you have to see if the contact raised to the level of pass interference."
No flag was thrown, and the Ravens took over at their 5. They won, 34-31, after taking an intentional safety.
"With pass interference, you have to materially affect the receiver's ability to catch the pass," Blandino said. "Yes, there's hand-fighting, but Crabtree also has his hand on [Smith's] helmet. The pass was catchable, but the contact did not materially restrict Crabtree's ability to catch the pass. He was jockeying for position and using his hands as well."