A local official will be patrolling the sidelines of Division I college football games this coming fall.
Ashton Dillon will be officiating games for the Southland Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — honors that he earned after participating in a camp in recent weeks.
Dillon is a long-time official and a South Lafourche High School graduate.
He said the call to major college football was one of the best days of his career.
“It felt good,” he said. “I was 1 of 7 that were hired out of 160 officials at this camp. For me, it’s just a very humbling experience.”
For Dillon, the call to Division I football comes after spending his entire life involved in athletics.
Dillon was a standout wide receiver in the late-1990s as a Tarpon who played a few seasons of college ball. He is also a former state champion — a starter on the Tarpons’ 1998 title-winning boys’ basketball team.
When the playing days were over, Dillon became an official as his way of staying connected to the games he loves.
To get to the college ranks, he’s had to put in as much time, effort and energy to his craft as he did as a player.
Dillon became a football official 12 seasons ago. In that time, he’s worked 11 seasons of high school ball and 1 season of Division III college football.
To rise up in the profession, referees have to constantly be evolving with the sport and working hard to perfect their craft.
To get the call-up to Division I, Dillon has had to attend multiple camps and clinics to be seen.
At the latest one, he was one of the select few to get the good news that they were going to be selected.
“It’s all about camps and clinics,” he said. “You pretty much have to be seen in live action so that those coordinators can watch you work.”
Dillon said the best officials have a lot of skillsets. You have to be a good communicator, in good physical condition and also have to be in tune with the always-changing rulebook in the constantly-evolving game of football.
“To me, you have to have a general knowledge of the game,” Dillon said when asked what makes a good official. “Your rules knowledge and mechanics have to be really good. And you have to be physically fit. If you look good and feel good, you’re going to ref well.”
Having help and a strong support system help, too.
Dillon said he wants to thank his wife, Dinah for her support over the years, always being there when there was another combine or camp to attend on the weekends.
Dillon said he also wants to thank Carl Johnson, a Thibodaux native and one of the NFL’s top officials — a man who has worked multiple Super Bowls in his career.
Dillon said Johnson befriended him early in his career, and he’s the one who advised Dillon and his cousin, fellow local official Julius Williams, to hit the camp circuit.
Since getting the call up to Division I, Dillon said Johnson has called him to congratulate him, calling it a surreal experience.
Someday, the local official said he hopes that he, too, can call games at the highest level.
“It’s only the beginning for me,” Dillon said. “I will keep working on my craft and who knows? I might get a chance to work on Sundays if it’s in God’s plan!”