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Former MHSAA Referee Ron Tolbert to Officiate Super Bowl LVI

By: Scott M. Burnstein, February 13, 2022, 1:31 pm

In a life filled with prestigious accomplishments, Ron Torbert is ready to embark on maybe his crowning achievement this weekend.

The 58-year old Torbert, who earned an Ivy League law degree and went on to become a nationally-respected construction attorney at Barton Malow, can now say he successfully charted a path for himself from wearing stripes on the fields of the MHSAA all the way to pro football’s biggest game.

On Sunday, when the Los Angeles Rams face the Cincinnati Bengals at L.A.’s SoFi Stadium, Torbert will be calling his first Super Bowl, an honor given to refs based on a season-long grading system conducted by the league. To add even more luster to the assignment, Torbert is filling the lead referee role on the field during the game, known as the chief judge, and will be just the third African-American to ever ref the Super Bowl.

Torbert reffed football and basketball in the MHSAA from 1989 to 1999, while living in Southfield before departing for gigs at the college level, eventually landing in the Big Ten in the late 2000s. Today, he resides in Baltimore. He retired from practicing law in 2019.

Over the past 12 years, Torbert has reffed six NFL playoff contests. ESPN was the first outlet to break the news of Torbert’s assignment last month. Torbert grew up in Youngstown, Ohio.

“I’ve been preparing for this moment for the last 30 years,” said Torbert in an interview with the Associated Press. “At the start, I didn’t always know what I was doing. But every game I worked, every clinic, every training camp, every education and video session I took part in, helped me get ready for this moment.”

Holding an undergraduate degree from Michigan State and a law degree from Harvard, Torbert became an NFL referee in 2014, after four years working as side judge. Three years ago in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta when the New England Patriots defeated the Rams 13-3, Torbert was selected as an alternate and attended the game in an official capacity.