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Longtime NFL referee Ben Dreith dies at 96

NFL: Super Bowl XV

Jan 25, 1981; New Orleans, LA, USA; FILE PHOTO; NFL referee Ben Dreith (12) signals first down in front of Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey (87) during Super Bowl XV at the Superdome. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Eagles 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Dreith, a referee who spent decades as a pro football official and is best remembered for one colorful call on the microphone, has died at the age of 96.

In a 1986 game when the Jets were roughing up Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, Dreith famously announced a penalty by saying, “There’s a personal foul, on number 99 of the defense. After he tackled the quarterback, he’s givin’ him the business down there. That’s a 15-yard penalty.”

NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson remembered Dreith as one of the league’s finest officials.

“Ben was one of the most respected referees in football,” Anderson said in a statement. “While his wit and description of the action on the field will be remembered by everyone, his commitment and passion to the game was something all of us as game officials aspire to emulate.”

Dreith became an American Football League official in 1960 and joined the NFL after the 1970 merger of the two leagues. He refereed Super Bowl VIII and Super Bowl XV and was chosen as a playoff official for 28 straight years.