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From Super Bowl Heartbreak to History-Making Official: Terry Killens’ Remarkable Journey

Key Points

  • Terry Killens, once a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, experienced heartbreak in Super Bowl XXXIV with the “One Yard Short” play, marking a pivotal moment in his NFL career.
  • Transitioning from player to official, Killens is set to make history by becoming the first individual to both play in and referee a Super Bowl, officiating Super Bowl LVIII.
  • His journey from player to referee highlights a unique path within the NFL, showcasing resilience, adaptation, and a continuous love for the game of football.
  • Killens’ role as an official in the upcoming Super Bowl underscores the importance of integrity and fairness in the sport, demonstrating how former players can offer valuable perspectives as guardians of the game.

A Moment That Defined A Career

Nearly a quarter century ago, the NFL was the stage for one of its most gripping dramas: Kevin Dyson’s full-stretch dive ended one yard short of a game-tying touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIV. This moment, forever immortalized as “One Yard Short,” became a defining chapter in the annals of sports history, and for Terry Killens, then a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, it was a poignant emblem of missed glory. The image of Dyson’s outstretched hand, just shy of the goal line, against the victorious St. Louis Rams, encapsulated the thin line between victory and defeat that athletes tread. For Killens, this was not just a game; it was the apex of a season’s aspirations, a moment where triumph and despair collided in the most dramatic fashion.

The aftermath of the game was a stark contrast for Killens; while the Rams celebrated amidst a shower of confetti, the Titans were left to ponder what might have been. This game was more than just an entry in the record books for Killens; it was a reflection of the unpredictable and often harsh reality of professional sports. It was a moment that tested the resilience of players, and for Killens, it marked the end of his closest brush with Super Bowl glory. The journey to and from that pivotal game in 2000 was filled with the highs and lows that define the careers of professional athletes, and for Killens, it was a profound moment of realization about the ephemeral nature of success in sports.

A New Chapter on Football’s Biggest Stage

Transitioning from the gridiron to the role of an official, Terry Killens has embarked on a journey that is as inspiring as it is unique. His return to the Super Bowl, this time clad in the black and white uniform of an NFL official for Super Bowl LVIII, signifies a historic full-circle moment. This transition from player to referee is not just about changing roles; it’s about Killens’ undying commitment to the game he loves. It represents a deep understanding and respect for football, highlighting his ability to contribute to the sport from a new vantage point. His participation in the upcoming Super Bowl, overseeing the clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, is not only a personal milestone but also a groundbreaking moment for the sport, showcasing the evolving opportunities within the NFL.

Killens’ journey to becoming an NFL official is a testament to his versatility and passion for football. It’s a narrative that underscores the possibilities that lie beyond the field of play, illustrating how the love for the game can manifest in various forms. This historic assignment is a culmination of years of hard work, learning, and adaptation. Killens, who once battled on the field for Super Bowl glory, now finds himself in a position to ensure the fairness and integrity of the game’s biggest stage. His presence in the Super Bowl as an official is a powerful reminder of the diverse paths one can take within the realm of professional football, and it highlights the importance of perseverance, adaptability, and lifelong learning.

A Legacy Beyond the Field

The transformation from NFL player to referee is a rare and commendable journey, one that Terry Killens has navigated with grace and determination. His entry into officiating was serendipitous, sparked by a conversation that opened his eyes to a new way to stay connected to the sport he loves. This transition speaks volumes about Killens’ character and his willingness to embrace new challenges. The road from player to official was paved with learning experiences, each step teaching him the nuances of the game from a different perspective. His decision to pursue officiating, a field he initially knew little about, demonstrates a remarkable openness to change and a relentless pursuit of personal growth.

Killens’ story is not just about the roles he has held but about the impact he continues to make in the world of football. His unique journey offers valuable insights into the complexities and beauties of the sport, from the exhilaration of playing to the meticulousness of officiating. As he prepares to officiate in the Super Bowl, Killens stands as a symbol of the game’s evolving nature and the endless opportunities it offers. His appreciation for the sport and the people who helped him along the way is a poignant reminder of the collaborative spirit that drives football. Killens’ legacy extends beyond the field, inspiring current and future generations to pursue their passions with dedication and to remain open to the unexpected paths their careers may take.

From The Locker Room To The Field As An Official

Terry Killens’ NFL career was marked by memorable plays and significant transitions, from his debut with the Houston Oilers to his final plays with the Tennessee Titans. The journey from the locker room to the field, and eventually to the officiating crew, is a narrative of resilience and adaptation. The “Music City Miracle” remains a highlight of his playing days, a testament to the unpredictable and thrilling nature of football. However, it’s the transition to officiating that marks Killens’ most profound professional evolution. This shift required not just a change in role but a complete overhaul in mindset—from being in the heat of the action to overseeing it with impartiality.

This journey through the officiating ranks, culminating in his appointment to the NFL in 2019, is a story of perseverance and passion. Killens’ progression from player to official showcases a deep-seated respect for the game and a desire to stay connected to it in a meaningful way. His role as an umpire, tasked with maintaining the integrity of the sport, allows him to apply his firsthand experience on the field to ensure fair play. The transition has been both challenging and rewarding, allowing Killens to view the game through a different lens and contribute to its legacy in a new capacity.

A Guardian of the Game

In his role as an official, Terry Killens embodies the essence of football—a sport driven by passion, integrity, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. His journey from the gridiron to the ranks of NFL officials is a powerful narrative of transformation and dedication. Killens’ approach to officiating, informed by his years as a player, offers a unique perspective that enriches his interactions on the field. He understands the emotional highs and lows that players experience, allowing him to officiate with empathy and fairness. This understanding fosters a sense of respect and rapport between Killens and the players, enhancing the quality of the game.

As Killens prepares to step onto the field for Super Bowl LVIII, his story serves as an inspiring testament to the enduring allure of football and the diverse opportunities it offers. His dedication to the sport, in both his playing and officiating careers, underscores a deep love for football and a commitment to preserving its integrity. Killens’ role as an official in the Super Bowl is not just a personal triumph but a historic milestone that highlights the significance of officials in the game. As a guardian of the game, he plays a crucial role in ensuring that football remains a fair, competitive, and enjoyable sport for all involved.


Terry Killens’ journey from player to official is a testament to the dynamic nature of professional football and the profound impact individuals can have in various capacities. His story is a beacon of inspiration, demonstrating the breadth of opportunities within the sport and the importance of embracing change. As Killens makes history in Super Bowl LVIII, his legacy as both a player and an official will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the NFL, inspiring future generations to pursue their passions with determination and an open heart.


  • What significant moment marked Terry Killens’ playing career in the NFL?

Terry Killens’ playing career is notably marked by the “One Yard Short” play in Super Bowl XXXIV, where the Tennessee Titans came agonizingly close to tying the game against the St. Louis Rams, ultimately facing heartbreak.

  • How is Terry Killens making history in the NFL?

Terry Killens is making history by being the first individual to both play in a Super Bowl and referee in one. He is set to officiate Super Bowl LVIII, marking a historic moment in the sport.

  • Why is Terry Killens’ transition from player to referee significant?

Killens’ transition from player to referee is significant because it showcases a rare and commendable path within the NFL, highlighting the possibilities beyond playing, the importance of adaptability, and a continued passion for football. His journey emphasizes how former players can contribute to the game’s integrity and fairness from a new perspective.

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