A longtime, well-respected referee in South Florida collapsed and died while working at a preseason game on Friday, leaving the broader Florida football community and grief and the players who saw him collapse struggling to come to grips with his death.
As reported by the Palm Beach Post and Miami NBC affiliate WPTV, among other sources, 73-year-old Belle Glade Florida referee Jerry Lohmann collapsed during the first quarter of Friday's preseason scrimmage between Boca Raton (Fl.) Olympic Heights High and Wellington (Fl.) High, and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The official fell to the ground in the middle of a play, leaving those who were watching from the sidelines and stands stunned.
"We saw him running, then just hold his chest and fall to the floor," Olympic Heights student Taylor Coccia told WPTV.
Those who were told of Lohmann's death at other games were equally shocked.
"It was like a slap in the face," David Campbell, the president of the East Coast Football Officials Association, told the Post. "He was always working with youth football out in Belle Glade. In Wellington, he also did youth football. He was a super nice guy, easy to get along with. Anything you needed to do, he would do. He was a special guy. This is definitely a sad day."
Lohmann worked area high school football games for 30 years, spanning the levels from youth football to some of the top state's top prep face-offs. He was reportedly incredibly fit for his age, still running 10 miles a day and working high school and youth football games every week. The Post reported he had been scheduled to officiate a youth game on Saturday.
Instead, those who he left behind spent Saturday reflecting on his life and what he meant to the South Florida football community.
"Everybody loved him because he was so giving of his time," Royal Palm Beach football official Carlos Carles told the Post. "He was like a rock star in Belle Glade because of how nice he was. He was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back."